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Washington Post’s Shares Gain After TV Units Boost Profit

Washington Post Co. (WPO), the media company partly owned by billionaire Warren Buffett, gained the most in more than a year after broadcast and cable television divisions fueled third-quarter profit growth.

The shares rose 5 percent to $356.50 at the close in New York, the biggest single-day gain since June of last year. The stock has declined 5.4 percent this year.

Excluding items such as restructuring expenses, third- quarter income from continuing operations rose 23 percent to $50.4 million, or $6.79 a share, from $40.9 million, or $5.18 a share, a year earlier, the company said today in a statement. Operating revenue was little changed at $1.01 billion.

Broadcast and cable television revenue helped make up for sluggish results at other divisions, the company said. Its education unit has come under government scrutiny -- along with the rest of the for-profit education industry -- and faces increasing regulation. The Washington Post newspaper also is struggling to retain readers and hasn’t capitalized on online- subscription programs that have benefited other major newspapers, including the New York Times.

Operating revenue at the broadcasting division jumped 44 percent to $106.4 million as the Olympics and election season boosted demand for advertising. The cable business climbed 6 percent to $199.6 million, the Washington-based company said.

Sales at its Kaplan education business -- the company’s largest unit, making up more than half of revenue -- slid 8 percent to $552.6 million.

Circulation Decline

The Washington Post newspaper, meanwhile, continues to lose readers and revenue. Weekday circulation fell 8.9 percent to 462,228, while the Sunday edition dropped 20 percent to 674,751, according to the latest figures from the Audit Bureau of Circulations. Print advertising at the Post fell 11 percent to $51.4 million.

U.S. newspapers in general have suffered a slide in advertising sales, dropping 6.6 percent in the first half of this year, according to the most recently available data from the Newspaper Association of America.

The company’s online-publishing revenue, which mostly comes from Washington Post and Slate digital advertising sales, rose 13 percent to $26.9 million.

Hospice Business

The company has moved to diversify its business beyond education and media to include health care. It agreed last month to acquire a majority interest in Celtic Healthcare Inc., a provider of health-care and hospice services in the Northeastern and mid-Atlantic.

The move is in keeping with the company’s strategy of operating a “diverse group of businesses,” Chief Executive Officer Donald E. Graham said at the time.

In an effort to add digital expertise, Graham also named Dave Goldberg, the CEO of SurveyMonkey.com LLC and husband of Facebook Inc. executive Sheryl Sandberg, to join the board in September.

Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc. (BRK/B) is the company’s largest shareholder, with a 28 percent stake, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

To contact the reporter on this story: Edmund Lee in New York at elee310@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nick Turner at nturner7@bloomberg.net

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