CBS Inc., which has been a persistent target of takeover rumors, announced first quarter results significantly below those recorded last year.
CBS said its profits fell 57 percent to $16.7 million (56 cents a share) from $38.9 million ($1.31) in the year-ago period, as revenue declined about 2 percent from $1.15 billion to $1.12 billion. The results were in line with Wall Street estimates and projections made by CBS Chairman Thomas H. Wyman at a recent meeting with securities analysts.
The decline in revenue reflects the absence of exceptional sales from Michael Jackson's "Thriller" album, which gave CBS Records a big boost last year. The decline in profits reflects the absence of "Thriller" and significant costs associated with the recently completed purchase of the Ziff-Davis Publishing Co.'s consumer magazines.
One bright spot was the performance of the CBS broadcast group, which posted an increase of 9 percent in profits. CBS said profits in broadcasting improved both because of the effectiveness of the group's cost control program and some strengthening of sales in the latter part of the quarter.
CBS has been fighting for its independence since a conservative group supported by Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) announced in January that it wants to acquire control of the network to end what it believes is a "liberal bias" in CBS news coverage. The Helms group said recently it will not wage a proxy fight at the CBS annual meeting next week, but plans to continue its battle to gain control of the network.
Broadcasting magnate Ted Turner also has indicated an interest in acquiring control of CBS, but he has not been able to raise the billions it would take to make a bid for the company. Turner reportedly has been conducting discussions with wealthy investors who might back a hostile bid for CBS, but apparently has not had much success.