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Time Warner holders hope for a quiet quarter

November 2004

Time Warner holders hope for a quiet quarter

NEW YORK (CBS.MW) - Time Warner shareholders hope they won't get a "November Surprise" on Wednesday when the world's largest media company releases its third-quarter results. 

Many investors, who have been rendered punch-drunk by the barrage of attack ads from President Bush and Sen. John Kerry, have been anxious about the prospect of an unexpected turn, or what political pundits call an "October Surprise."

Likewise, Time Warner shareholders don't want a jolt when the company rolls out its numbers. In the past few quarters, Time Warner has been a model of calm -- a sharp contrast to its darker days in years past.

A Time Warner spokesman declined to comment on the forecasts for third-quarter results.

Ken Marlin, head of the Marlin & Associates investment banking company, said: "We expect Time Warner to report pretty good numbers and we expect AOL to be particularly strong. Internet advertising is up across the board, as we've seen with Yahoo and Google."

According to a poll of 24 securities analysts taken by Thomson First Call, Time Warner is expected to report earnings of 14 cents a share, on average, up from 12 cents a share last year.

When Time Warner and America Online finalized their merger in January 2001, the company was known as AOL Time Warner. In the ensuing quarters, AOL Time Warner's America Online unit became a magnet for chaos, producing billion-dollar charges.

But under Chairman Dick Parsons, the company - which has symbolically changed its name to Time Warner to reflect the orderly style of the corporation - has been practically dull. The stream of tumultuous news has all but ceased since 2003.

Bit by bit, Parsons is putting Time Warner's house in order. He has executed some calculated deals - shedding non-core assets such as professional sports teams and the part-ownership of the Comedy Central cable TV channel. His wheeling and dealing has helped lower the company's debt burden from an unwieldy $30 billion or so.

Parsons' good humor and ease in public has enabled investors to put on the back burner the one X factor that could send the company's shares of stock skidding - the ongoing Securities and Exchange Commission's investigation into Time Warner's America Online division, dating back to its accounting procedures in 2000 and 2001.

James McGlynn, the manager of the Summit Everest Fund in Cincinnati, said he is waiting to see what Time Warner will announce about its plans to acquire companies as a way of enlarging its traditional strength in cable TV.

Time Warner has said it is exploring the possibility of teaming with Comcast Corp. to buy Adelphia Communications, the nation's sixth-largest cable operator, which has been on the auction block for months.

Time Warner is the nation's second biggest cable operator, trailing only Comcast.

Time Warner shares were down 1.5 percent at $16.39 in midday Monday trading.

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