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Tribune Co.'s profit falls in first quarter

Tribune Co.’s profit fell in the first quarter despite a sharp rise in operating revenue compared with the first three months of 2013.

The Chicago-based media company reported Tuesday its operating profit fell 11 percent to $74.3 million in the three months ended March 31 compared with $83.5 million a year earlier. And net income was down 29.6 percent to $41.1 million compared with $58.4 million. Meanwhile, operating revenue increased 20.9 percent to $852.2 million in the quarter compared with $705 million a year earlier.

Tribune is poised to separate its broadcasting and publishing divisions this summer. The broadcasting division reported higher operating revenue in the quarter while the publishing division’s revenue was down slightly.

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“In the first quarter of 2014 we demonstrated early signs of the strength of our new broadcast scale,” said Peter Liguori, Tribune Co. president and chief executive officer. “Our newspapers continued to deliver very good results in a challenging environment, and we are confident in the prospects for that business as we move closer to spinning it off from Tribune Co.”

The broadcasting division’s operating revenue increased 7.9 percent in the quarter to $398.4 million compared with $369.3 million a year earlier after adjusting for Tribune’s acquisition of Local TV. Broadcasting’s operating profit, however, was down 28.1 percent to $64.2 million compared with $89.3 million.

The publishing division, which includes the Chicago Tribune, saw its operating revenue slip 2.6 percent to $453.8 million in the quarter compared with $465.9 million. Operating profit fell 16.6 percent to $38.7 million from $46.4 million a year earlier. The company said the publishing division’s results were hurt by the costs of establishing Tribune Digital Ventures.

Newspaper advertising revenue was down 7.6 percent overall, while retail advertising revenue dropped 12.5 percent.