Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. said profits soared in the fourth quarter, capping a presidential election year in which the Hunt Valley TV station owner saw record levels of political advertising, a rebound in auto advertising sales and rapid growth through acquisitions.
Net income rose to $59 million, or 73 cents per share, from $22.7 million, or 28 cents per share, in the fourth quarter that ended Dec. 31, the company reported Wednesday. Earnings beat analysts' expectations of 59 cents per share. Net broadcast revenues from continuing operations increased 59 percent to $287.1 million in the quarter, compared with $180.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2011, the company said.
The company's shares rose nearly 2 percent Wednesday to close at $14.49 on the Nasdaq.
David Smith, Sinclair president and CEO, called 2012 a "remarkable year," when the broadcaster purchased 30 TV stations and sold record levels of political ads as the key automotive advertising category improved.
Sales from political ads rose to $54.1 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $4.1 million in the same period a year earlier. The company said it booked as much political advertising in the final five weeks of the presidential election as it did in all of 2008, the last presidential election year. The automotive advertising category reported one of the biggest spending increases of the quarter, up 6.4 percent.
In December, Sinclair finalized its purchase of six television stations owned by Newport Television, purchased nonlicensed assets of Newport's ABC affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., and closed on the purchase of nonlicensed assets of three stations owned by GoCom Media Inc.
The company reported operating income of $119.1 million for the quarter, up from $63.5 million in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Sinclair's board declared a quarterly cash dividend of 15 cents per share on Class A and Class B common stock, payable March 15.
Smith said 2013 is off to a strong start, thanks to the company's 11 CBS stations' airing the Super Bowl, and opportunities to continue acquiring TV stations. The company owns, operates, programs or provides sales services to 87 stations in 47 markets.
"Sinclair has emerged as the leader in the consolidation trend in the broadcast industry," David Amy, Sinclair's executive vice president and chief financial officer, said during a Wednesday conference call with analysts. "There are opportunities that we think will be coming to market. We will continue to be aggressive if and when they come up."