bus BRIEFS Clear Channel earnings fall in 3rd quarter

SAN ANTONIO -- Clear Channel Communications Inc.'s third-quarter profit fell nearly 60 percent from the same period in 2003, which had been inflated by the nation's largest radio station operator's sale of its stake in a Spanish-language broadcasting network.

Clear Channel said today that it earned $261.2 million, or 44 cents per share, in the three months ended Sept. 30, down from $636 million, or $1.03 a share, in the year-ago period.

Thomson First Call said the consensus of industry analysts it surveyed was for earnings of 43 cents per share for the most recent quarter.

Clear Channel's year-ago results reflected gains on its sale of its stake in Univision Communications Inc. Without the one-time gains, Clear Channel's third-quarter profit in 2003 would have been $237 million, or 38 cents per share.

Exxon reports record profits


DALLAS -- Exxon Mobil Corp., the world's largest publicly traded oil company, reported record third quarter profits and may be headed for all-time marks for annual revenue and earnings, thanks to higher prices for oil and natural gas.

The company said it earned $5.68 billion, or 88 cents per share, in the third quarter, compared with $3.65 billion, or 55 cents per share, a year earlier. The company said it would have earned $6.23 billion in the recent quarter after excluding a $550 million charge to cover the cost of a class-action lawsuit by gas station dealers.

Viacom earnings shocked by loss of Stern

NEW YORK -- Viacom Inc. took a $1.5 billion hit to its third-quarter earnings as it completed a split from the struggling Blockbuster video rental chain. Otherwise, its results were mixed, with higher earnings from television and cable networks but flagging results from its radio division, which recently lost top-rated shock jock Howard Stern.

Nonetheless, Viacom's shares rose after the company announced a larger-than-expected stock buyback program and boosted its dividend by a penny per share.

Viacom, whose array of media businesses includes CBS, MTV and the Paramount movie studio, posted a net loss of $487.6 million, or 28 cents a share, for the three months ending Sept. 30. That compared with earnings of $699.6 million, or 40 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Recording industry files more lawsuits

LOS ANGELES -- The recording industry on Thursday filed another round of copyright infringement lawsuits against people it said were illegally distributing songs over the Internet.


This latest wave of federal litigation targeted 750 computer users across the nation, including 25 students at 13 universities, according to the Recording Industry Association of America, the trade group for the largest music companies.

The RIAA claims the defendants used university computer networks to distribute copyrighted recordings on unauthorized peer-to-peer services, including eDonkey,

Stewart company losses widen

NEW YORK -- Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Inc.'s losses widened in the third quarter from a year ago, and the multimedia company forecast a larger-than-anticipated loss for the fourth quarter as advertising revenues decline and it continues to reel from the personal legal woes of its founder, former chairwoman and CEO.

Still, the results, announced Thursday, beat Wall Street expectations, and the company said it is "increasingly optimistic" about the company's prospects for an advertising recovery in 2005, when Stewart is expected to return to her company.

Marsh &; McLennan fine estimate disputed

NEW YORK -- The price for settling state charges of collusion and bid rigging by the nation's largest insurance broker could be "far higher" than $500 million, New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer said Thursday.

Spitzer disputed the $500 million settlement figure reported Thursday by The Wall Street Journal as the minimum for any settlement of the attorney general's lawsuit against Marsh &; McLennan Companies Inc. Since Spitzer announced the suit Oct. 14, the company's chief executive resigned and outside directors have scrambled to settle the case as its stock plummets.


China to increase some interest rates

SHANGHAI, China -- China on Thursday announced it would hike interest rates for one-year loans by 0.27 percentage points to 5.58 percent, the first increase in more than nine years.

The adjustment, which takes effect Friday, comes as China's government struggles to curb investment growth that continues to keep economic growth at an annual rate of more than 9 percent and inflation at seven-year highs.

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