With no deal struck between between Viacom Inc.'s Mel Karmazin and Sumner
Redstone, Viacom's stock took a 4 percent dip in early trading.
That was the word from Redstone, chairman and CEO of Viacom, Wednesday
morning during a conference call to discuss the company's fourth-quarter and
And the market didn't like it -- early morning trading pushed Viacom down 4
percent ($1.49) to $36.04 even though the major stock indices were all up.
Karmazin also disclosed that he was selling $10 million worth of stock,
although he said he was doing it only because he had to -- the result of
options granted 10 years ago that expire this week.
"I know investors don't like surprises," Karmazin said, before offering the
options explanation. "I didn't want you to think anything else was going
Karmazin also apologized to investors for the fact that Viacom's stock price
showed a decline in 2002, down some 7 percent, despite record revenue and profit
gains for the year.
He said he was optimistic that the company's stock price would be up for full-year 2003.
Karmazin said nothing about his ongoing contract negotiations (his current
deal expires at year's end).
But in his opening statement on the conference call, Redstone indicated that there
was no new deal yet.
"We're very sensitive to the fact that a timely resolution is desirable,"
Redstone told analysts and investors on the conference call. "But we believe
that it is better to get it right. Mel and I are working cooperatively with a
committee of independent Viacom directors to reach a resolution as soon as
Meanwhile, the company had record revenues and profits for the fourth
quarter and full-year 2002.
Companywide ad revenues were up 5 percent and total revenues were up 6
percent to $23.2 billion while operating income tripled to $4.5 billion.
Karmazin stressed that the owned TV-station group was also improving.
Full-year revenues were up 12 percent (5 percent of that coming from KCAL-TV
Los Angeles, acquired last April).
Fourth-quarter profit margins at the station group grew to 43 percent from 37
percent in the prior year, with margins at the CBS stations (which exclude the
UPN-owned stations) growing to 50.2 percent from 47.5 percent.
He credited the growth to better network lead-ins from 10:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. with a
resulting 9 percent average gain across the group's late newscasts, as well as
better performances from syndication properties like Dr. Phil. But never one to be satisfied, he added, "We still have a long way to