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Meltdown turns Time Warner red

AOL owner/Lehman landlord admits $25bn write-down

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Time Warner expects to report a red 2008, thanks to a whopping $25bn impairment charge for its cable, magazine publishing, and, yes, AOL businesses. This would be the media giant's first annual loss in six years.

Naturally, it blames the Meltdown. "The economic environment has proved somewhat more challenging than the company previously expected, particularly for the advertising businesses at the AOL and publishing segments," Time Warner said in a statement released this morning.

But that's just a start. The company was directly affected by the demise of Meltdown poster child Lehman Brothers. The bankrupt investment bank was a tenant in Time Warner's flagship New York office building. After a restructured lease, the company will stomach another loss of between $50 million and $60 million.

It also expects roughly $40 million in credit losses from bankrupt customers like Circuit City. And there's that recent court judgment against the company's Turner Broadcasting System (related to the sale of its winter sports teams), which could result in a $281 million charge.

For 2007, Time Warner - which owns CNN, Time magazine, and the Warner Brothers film studio as well as AOL, Time Warner Cable, and the Turner Broadcasting Company - reported an operating profit of $8.9bn. It last reported a year-end loss in 2002, when the bottom fell out of AOL.

This time around, Time Warner Cable is the biggest disappointment, representing $15bn of the company's $25bn write-down.

When Time Warner last provided a financial outlook on November 5, it expected adjusting operating income before Depreciation and Amortization to grow around 5 per cent. Now that figures is down to 1 per cent.

Time Warner is due to announced its fourth quarter financial results on February 4. ®

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