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Emmis posts big profit, but revenue shrinks

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Emmis Communications Corp. posted an unusually large profit of $110.9 million in its latest quarter due to unusual circumstances involving the sale of radio stations and the repurchase of company preferred stock.

The Indianapolis-based media company on Thursday said profit for the fiscal third quarter ended Nov. 30 was $2.49 per diluted share compared with a loss of 4 cents per diluted share, or $1.7 million, for the same period in 2010.

Emmis turned a profit of $31.8 million on the sale of its portion of Merlin Media LLC to Chicago-based private equity firm GTCR for $120 million. The sale closed Sept. 1. Merlin operates radio stations WLUP-FM and WKQX-FM in Chicago, in addition to WRXP-FM in New York.

While the sale was profitable, the loss of Merlin's big-market radio stations dragged down revenue. Quarterly revenue fell 11 percent from the year before, to $39.8 million.

Overall radio revenue for the quarter fell 16.8 percent while publishing revenue increased 5.6 percent.

Emmis also repurchased $55.8 million in stock from preferred shareholders during the period to reduce its debt $80 million. Total debt at the end of 2011 was $240 million.

Emmis shares fell 6 cents, to 69 cents each, in morning trading. The company faces the risk of being delisted from the NASDAQ exchange in February if its stock remains priced under $1.

Despite the company’s struggles, Emmis CEO Jeff Smulyan said he was upbeat about its prospects.

“It’s been disappointing in terms of our revenue, but I think we’re poised to see 2012 as a breakout year for this company,” he said Thursday morning.

Emmis last quarter rolled out a high-definition radio application funded in part by a grant from the National Association of Broadcasters. The smart-phone app ultimately could become a feature in automobiles, Smulyan said.

“We think it’s a game-changer,” he said, “because it changes the way people consume radio.”

Emmis owns 17 FM and two AM radio stations nationwide and seven city and specialty magazines. Locally, it operates WFNI-AM 1070, WIBC-FM 93.1, WLHK-FM 97.1 and WYXB-FM 105.7, as well as Indianapolis Monthly magazine.
 

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