Dow Jones reports higher Q4 profit

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Financial news publisher Dow Jones & Co. reported sharply higher fourth-quarter earnings Thursday on special gains from the sale of several newspapers, an acquisition and stronger ad sales at the Wall Street Journal.

The New York-based company, which also publishes Barron's, Dow Jones Newswires and other publications, earned US$192.9 million, or $2.30 per share, for the fourth quarter, up from $41.2 million, or 49 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Revenue rose 6.1 per cent to $485.4 million, partly because of the acquisition of the other half of the Factiva news database business that the company didn't already own. Excluding the lift from the Factiva stake, revenue rose 3.5 per cent.

Excluding a one-time gain from the sale of six local newspapers and another investment, a tax gain and a restructuring charge, Dow Jones earned $39.9 million or 47 cents per share in the quarter, up from $34.4 million or 41 cents per share in the year-ago period.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial had been looking for earnings of 43 cents per share. Dow Jones' shares rose 35 cents to close at $38.92 on the New York Stock Exchange.

Dow Jones turned in higher results in its consumer media business, which includes the Journal as well as Barron's and MarketWatch, an online financial news site, with a 4.6 per cent increase in revenue.

Advertising revenue at the Journal's print edition rose 5.1 per cent despite a 1.4 per cent decline in linage as the paper was able to secure higher advertising payments. Paid subscribers to the Journal's website rose 5.6 per cent to 811,000.

The company also said it would no longer give quarterly forecasts for earnings and revenue, but will provide a full-year outlook. For 2007, Dow Jones said it expects total revenue growth of three to five per cent, excluding the effect of adding the Factiva stake. On a net basis, revenue is expected to grow 18 to 20 per cent.

For the full year, Dow Jones reported net income of $388.6 million or $4.64 per share, versus $60.4 million or 73 cents per share a year earlier. Excluding one-time items, full-year earnings rose 13 per cent to $92.6 million from $81.8 million, while annual revenue rose 6.6 per cent to $1.78 billion.

Earlier this month, Dow Jones eliminated nearly 100 jobs from its division that provides news and information to businesses after completing the acquisition of the Factiva stake from Reuters Group PLC and integrating it with its other business-focused news properties, including Dow Jones Newswires.

Dow Jones financed the $160-million deal with the sale of six community newspapers.

In a note to investors, Merrill Lynch analyst Lauren Rich Fine said Dow Jones was ``one of the few publishers with an aggressive, proactive attitude that incorporates a variety of online strategies.'' But she kept her rating on the stock at ``neutral,'' saying the company's strong position was already reflected in the shares.

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