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Earnings jump for 4 firms

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Several companies, including a couple with Utah ties, reported significant earnings growth Wednesday.

General Growth Properties

General Growth Properties Inc., the second-largest U.S. owner of shopping malls, said Wednesday that first-quarter earnings rose 30 percent on higher retail sales and income from newly acquired shopping centers.

General Growth's portfolio includes Cache Valley Mall in Logan, the Cottonwood Mall in Holladay, Newgate Mall in Ogden, the Provo Towne Centre, and the Red Cliffs Mall in St. George.

Net income climbed to $59.1 million, or 27 cents a share, from $45.5 million, or 24 cents, a year earlier, the company said in a statement.

General Growth paid $249 million for the Four Seasons Town Centre, a 1.2 million-square-foot shopping center in Greensboro, N.C., and the half of a Mesquite, Texas, mall that it didn't already own. Revenue for the Chicago-based real estate investment trust increased 32 percent to $361.6 million.

Comparable center net operating income in the first quarter rose 4.1 percent from a year earlier. Mall-shop occupancy was unchanged at 90.4 percent, and sales per square foot, on a trailing 12-month basis as of March 31, rose to $359 from $345.

General Growth's funds from operations, a measure of profit used by REITs, rose 34 percent to $130.3 million, or 60 cents a share. On that basis, which isn't in accordance with generally accepted accounting principles, results met the average estimate from 12 analysts surveyed by Thomson Financial.

Symantec Corp.

Symantec, the world's largest maker of software to protect computers from viruses, said its fourth-quarter profit rose 72 percent as consumers and corporations bought its software amid a rash of outbreaks. The company raised its profit and sales forecast.

Symantec has about 175 people working in an enterprise administration business unit in Orem and 150 people at a development lab in American Fork.

Net income in the period ended March 31 rose to $116.9 million, or 33 cents a share, from $68.1 million, or 21 cents, a year earlier, the company said in a statement. Sales rose 43 percent to $556.4 million.

Sales increased as consumers and companies bought more software to fight what researchers described as a record outbreak of Internet-borne computer viruses. The first quarter was "the most economically damaging" on record in terms of virus outbreaks, said London-based research firm Mi2G.

First-quarter sales will be $525 million to $555 million, with profit after some costs of 33 cents a share, the Cupertino, Calif., company said. Analysts expected on average 31 cents on sales of $508.5 million, according to Thomson Financial.

Time Warner Inc.

Time Warner Inc., the world's largest media company, reported Wednesday that its first-quarter profits more than doubled from the same period a year ago, thanks to a gain from the sale of its music division and stronger results in its film and television divisions.

Time Warner also reported improved results and a slowdown in subscriber defections at its America Online division, which is in the midst of a turnaround effort.

For the period ending March 31, the company posted net earnings of $961 million, or 20 cents per share, well ahead of the year-ago figures of $396 million, or 9 cents per share.

Revenues rose 9 percent to $10.1 billion from $9.24 billion a year ago.

Excluding the effects of an accounting charge and discontinued operations, the earnings were equivalent to 15 cents per share, well ahead of the 9 cents per share that analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call had been expecting. In the comparable period a year ago, the company earned 10 cents per share.

The results were announced after the end of regular trading on the New York Stock Exchange, where Time Warner's shares closed down 31 cents at $16.51. In after-hours trading, the shares jumped 75 cents.

ConocoPhillips

Strong oil prices, lower production costs and better refining margins helped propel ConocoPhillips to a first quarter profit of $1.6 billion, a 32 percent increase from a year ago.

The nation's third-largest oil major said Wednesday it earned $2.33 per share, ahead of the $1.99 forecast by analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call.

ConocoPhillips made $1.2 billion, or $1.79 per share, in the year-ago quarter. Revenues were $30.2 billion, up 11 percent from $27.1 billion in the January-March period of 2003.

The company also paid down another $700 million in debt left over from the merger between Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Co. in 2002, which now stands around $17 billion.


Contributing: Bloomberg News; The Associated Press