Radio One Inc. said yesterday that it swung to a profit in the fourth quarter, but executives found themselves trying to assure investors that its growth plans won't be derailed by increased competition for urban listeners.
The Lanham-based company, which operates 66 radio stations targeting primarily African American listeners, reported fourth-quarter net income of $3 million, compared with a loss of $15.4 million in the year-earlier period. The company's per-share loss, after paying preferred dividends, was 2 cents, compared with a loss of 22 cents per share in the fourth quarter of 2001.
The company's net broadcast revenue was $76.9 million in the fourth quarter, compared with $67.4 million a year earlier. Broadcast cash flow, an industry indicator of radio stations' profitability, increased 19 percent in the fourth quarter, to $39 million, from $32.9 million a year earlier. But the improved fourth-quarter performance did not put investors at ease. During a conference call with analysts yesterday, Radio One chief executive Alfred C. Liggins III spent nearly an hour answering questions about how the company was weathering efforts to poach listeners from its hip-hop and R&B formatted stations. "By far the biggest concern we are hearing from investors is the fear of additional competition," Liggins said. "We strongly disagree that this will derail our growth."
Radio One stock fell 80 cents yesterday to $13.20.
Liggins said the company's profit margins have not stopped growing despite the more crowded urban-radio space. "We've been enduring the competition, in some cases for two years, and we're still up," he said.
Analysts pointed out, however, that the competition -- which includes radio-goliath Clear Channel Communications Inc., a San Antonio-based company that owns 1,200 stations, and Atlanta-based Cox Radio Inc., which owns 79 stations -- is taking its toll. The revenues of some individual Radio One stations, which once outpaced the industry, are now lagging behind the natural growth of some of its markets, analysts said.
"They aren't bulletproof. They are taking hits and their growth is lagging," said Bishop Cheen, a Wachovia Securities media analyst and former Miami radio disc jockey. "Success breeds competition . . . and a combination of things have convened all at once to bring a lot of competition to Radio One's doorstep."
Competitors have been drawn by the $600 billion annual income of the black community and the crossover appeal of urban formatted stations, Cheen said. Still, he remains bullish on Radio One.
Other analysts' views varied. Of 13 analysts surveyed by Multex, an investment research company, five gave the company a strong-buy rating, five gave it a buy rating and the other three gave it a hold rating.
Markets where Radio One has faced increased competition in the last few years include Richmond and Los Angeles, where Clear Channel has launched similarly formatted stations. In Houston, Radio One is battling with Atlanta-based Cumulus Broadcasting Inc. This month, Cox switched an oldies station into an urban format in Atlanta, where Radio One owns four urban-formatted stations.
"These are big companies with lots of resources," said Liggins, who told analysts that Radio One would not spend a lot of money to out-promote its competitors. "We are prudent, and we do not believe you can spend your way out of competition."
For the year, Radio One earned $7.1 million on net broadcast revenue of $295.9 million, compared to a loss of $55.2 million on net broadcast revenue of $243.8 million in 2001. The loss per share was 13 cents for 2002, compared with 83 cents for 2001.
During yesterday's call, Liggins also said he is continuing to negotiate deals with potential investors in an African American-targeted cable television network that Radio One and Philadelphia-based Comcast Corp. will launch this summer, and said he is close to signing a contract with a network chief executive.
* Pepco Holdings Inc., the D.C. -based holding company for Pepco and Conectiv Power Delivery, said it earned $26.3 million (16 cents per share) on revenue of $1.61 billion in the fourth quarter.
Pepco officials said its core regulated power-delivery business, which makes up about 70 percent of its earnings, is performing well. Included in the fourth-quarter results were $13.8 million in severance costs.
In the fourth quarter of 2001, Pepco lost $17.2 million (16 cents) on revenue of $481.9 million. Most of the loss was attributable to $44.6 million in costs associated with subsidiary aircraft and investment write-downs. The company had not yet merged with Conectiv in 2001.
For 2002, Pepco earned $210.5 million ($1.61) on revenue of $4.32 billion, compared with net income of $163.4 million ($1.51) on revenue of $2.4 billion in 2001.
* Interstate Hotels & Resorts said it lost $3.4 million (17 cents) on revenue of $247.3 million in the fourth quarter, compared to a loss of $3 million (60 cents) on revenue of $77.7 million in the same period a year earlier.
Revenue for the Washington-based hotel management company grew because of a merger in July.
For the year, Interstate lost $28.9 million ($2.86) on revenue of $601.2 million, compared with a loss of $7.4 million ($1.41) on revenue of $318.8 million in 2001.