Sinclair reports smaller quarterly loss as auto dealers ads increase

Sinclair Broadcast Group Inc. reported a smaller quarterly loss Wednesday, thanks to improved spending by automotive advertisers.

The Hunt Valley-based broadcaster posted a net loss of $67.8 million in the three months that ended Dec. 31, or a loss of 85 cents per common share, compared with a fourth quarter net loss of $283.5 million, or $3.46 per share, in 2008.

Net broadcast revenue fell a less-than-expected 6.4 percent, to $153.9 million for the quarter, from $164.4 million in the fourth quarter of 2009. The company had initially expected revenues to fall as much as 12.8 percent.

Excluding one-time charges, the company would have reported net income of $19.5 million, or earnings of 24 cents per common share, compared to net income of $19.6 million, with earnings of 23 cents per share, in the fourth quarter of 2008.

For the first three months of this year, the operator of 58 television stations expects net broadcast revenues to increase by low double-digit percentages — despite owning just three stations offering coverage of the Olympics and Super Bowl.

"We believe the worst of the advertising recession is now behind us, having seen fourth quarter 2009 revenue improvements," said David Amy, Sinclair's chief financial officer. "Despite Toyota's [recall] problems, we believe we are being led out of the advertising recession on the backs of the automotive industry, which appears appear to be focused once again on growing their market share."

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