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Sinclair's 4Q Forecast Beats Street

Sinclair Broadcast Group on Feb. 11 issued preliminary financial results for the fourth quarter, ending Dec. 31. The broadcaster anticipated posting total revenues of $196 million, versus $198 million for the same period a year earlier. Net income was projected at $20.3 million versus nearly $13 million the year before.

Wall Street pegged Sinclair's (NASDAQ: SBGI) 4Q revenue at around $192 million. The company also expected to post a per-share dividend of around 20 cents for the quarter, compared to the Street's projection of 18 cents.

SBGI's preliminary results don't factor in an expected write-down of nearly $460 million, however. The final results will be included in the company's annual report.

SBGI chief David Smith said under current conditions, TV station salaries have been frozen, capital expenditures "cut drastically," and further outside investments limited. SBGI expects to make loan payments and pay quarterly dividends, he said, but the owners would forego dividends while staff salaries were frozen.

"The Company's Board of Directors felt that the Company's ownership whould make a financial sacrifice just as our employees have done, and therefore, has suspended our dividend until further notice," Smith said.

SBGI total preliminary revenues include nearly $32 million from barter deals and operations not related to broadcasting. The company's 58 TV stations generated $164.4 million in 4Q revenues, compared to $165.7 million the year previous. For the full year of 2008, SBGI'sTV station revenues are projected to come in at $639 million versus $623 million in '07.

Political ads contributed $25.6 million in 4Q and $41.1 million for the full year, up from $2.2 million and $5 million in the corresponding '07 periods.

Retrans revenues were $17.7 million in 4Q08 compared to $15.9 million in 4Q07. Full-year retrans is projected at $73.9 million for 2008 versus $58.9 million in 2007, a 26 percent increase.

For 2009, SBGI expects Q1 broadcast revenues to be down by a low- to mid-20 percentage compared to the $160.9 million posted in 1Q08, when many of SBGI's stations carried the Super Bowl.