AOL reports $99 billion yearly loss; Turner steps down

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AOL Time Warner Inc. (AOLTW) reported a fourth-quarter loss Wednesday that included a US$44.5 billion noncash charge due largely to the diminishing value of its AOL Internet unit, and announced that Ted Turner would be stepping down as vice chairman.

The much-watched media conglomerate reported a net loss for its 2002 fiscal fourth quarter of $44.9 billion, or $10.04 a share, compared to a loss of $1.8 billion, or $0.41 a share, for the year-ago period.

The noncash goodwill charge was taken to reflect the decline in value of AOL and other intangible assets that the company is carrying, AOLTW said.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call predicted fourth-quarter earnings of US$0.26 per share on revenue of $11.2 billion.

For the full 2002 fiscal year the company reported a net loss of $98.7 billion, or $22.15 per share, compared to a net loss of $4.93 billion, or $1.11 a share, for fiscal 2001.

Although the charge was largely expected given the continued weakness of the AOL unit, the resignation of Turner came as a surprise. During a conference call Wednesday, AOLTW Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dick Parsons said that Turner would be leaving the company in May to "pursue philanthropic interests."

Turner's departure comes on the heels of news earlier this month that AOLTW's chairman and the founder of America Online, Steve Case, would be stepping down in May due to continued criticism over his leadership.

With AOL in trouble, the New York-based company has been searching high and low for a way to cut costs and boost revenue.

On Tuesday the company sold its 8.4 percent stake in Hughes Electronics Corp. for roughly $800 million in an effort to lighten its debt load. Additionally, AOLTW is reportedly shopping around its book publishing division in hopes of further filling its coffers.

Saddled with a struggling Internet unit, government probes into its accounting practices and internal power-battles, AOLTW's trials and travails of late have served as a veritable buffet of scandal and speculation.

The company's quarterly results Wednesday, and the news of a further executive shake-up, will no doubt continue to keep all eyes on the media mammoth.

This story, "AOL reports $99 billion yearly loss; Turner steps down" was originally published by PCWorld.

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