Thursday, February 20, 2003

Regent Communications reports advertising slowdown


By John Eckberg, Cliff Peale,
James Pilcher and James McNair
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Regent Communications, the Covington-based radio company, indicated Wednesday that advertising has slowed in recent weeks from geopolitical concerns and general economic worries.

"We had a robust fourth quarter," Terry Jacobs, chairman and chief executive, said during a conference call with analysts on Wednesday.

"There has generally been a softening of demand in the past few weeks. There is clearly anxiety."

Regent Wednesday reported a net loss of $6.5 million, or 15 cents a share, for 2002, compared with a loss of $1.7 million, or 5 cents a share, in 2001. Net broadcast revenues rose to $70.4 million from $53.7 million for the year.

For the fourth quarter, Regent lost $3.9 million, or 8 cents a share, compared with a loss of $2.2 million in the same period a year earlier. Revenue rose to $21.4 million from $13.7 million.

Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization totaled $5.1 million in the fourth quarter, versus $2.3 million the year before, and $15.3 million for the year versus $10.4 million in 2001.

Regent also reported free cash flow in the fourth quarter from 75 stations in 17 markets of $4.5 million. For the fourth quarter of 2002, free cash flow was $800,000.

William Stakelin, president and chief operating officer, said Regent was approaching the new year with optimism because of improved station performance in cities like Fort Collins, Colo.

"But it is tempered. There is general worry about the economy and (the possibility of an Iraq) war. It is having an effect on consumers and advertisers," he said.

In other reports:

American Financial Group Inc.: The holding company for the financial interests of Reds owner Carl Lindner earned $84.6 million, or $1.22 a share, in 2002, compared with a $14.8 million loss in 2001, the company said.

AFG also settled an asbestos liability case against its Great American Insurance subsidiary for $123.5 million.

Since most of the settlement will be covered by previously established reserves, the company took a $19.5 million after-tax charge against fourth-quarter earnings.

Earnings from core insurance operations increased nearly 60 percent to $167.2 million, giving executives confidence that its specialty insurance underwriting had improved profitability.

"I believe our strategic focus in the specialty commercial lines and the favorable trends in the commercial insurance markets will contribute to further improvement in our operating earnings in 2003 and beyond," said Lindner, AFG's chairman and chief executive officer.

In the fourth quarter, the company earned $44.2 million, or 64 cents per share, compared to earnings of $31.5 million, or 46 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

Mycom Group: The Cincinnati-based technology provider said Wednesday that it posted a net loss for the quarter ended Dec. 31.

The company reported a fourth-quarter net loss of $7,000, compared with a net loss of $90,000 in the same quarter in 2001.

It said revenue fell 16 percent to $2.3 million.

For the full year, Mycom lost $2.4 million, compared with a loss of $273,000 in 2001. Revenue from hardware, software and services fell 16 percent to $8.2 million.

LCA-Vision Inc.: The Sycamore Township-based laser eye surgery provider reported a fourth-quarter loss of $1.9 million, compared with a loss of $4.6 million during the same period in 2001.

For the full year, LCA-Vision lost $3.8 million, compared with a 2001 net loss of $23.4 million.

LCA-Vision did say that revenues were up 22 percent from $10.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2001 to $13.3 million in 2002.

The report equated into a quarterly loss per share of 18 cents, compared with 40 cents a share in the final quarter of 2001.

Annual losses were 35 cents a share, compared with $2.01 a share in 2001.

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