Broadcaster CME cuts loss in Q1 as advertisers return

Reuters

* Revenue up in five of CME's six markets

* OIBDA, operating losses shrink

* Time Warner deals give CME breathing room (Adds quote from company executive, details)

PRAGUE, May 7 (Reuters) - Broadcaster Central European Media Enterprises (CME) narrowed its loss in the first quarter, boosted by higher revenue after advertisers in its biggest market the Czech Republic returned following a price reduction.

The company, which owns television stations in central and eastern Europe, is looking to get out of the toughest period in its two-decade existence and has just completed deals with its main shareholder Time Warner to give it a financial lifeline.

CME fell into deep losses last year when many customers in the Czech Republic rejected a higher pricing strategy that was meant to regain income lost in a slumping TV advertising market. It is now winning back clients after cutting prices.

Revenue, which was up in five of CME's six markets, rose by 15.3 percent year-on-year to $153.1 million in the first quarter, in line with the average estimate of $153.7 million in a Reuters poll of analysts.

Operating income before depreciation and amortisation (OIBDA) showed a loss of $2.3 million, a narrowing from the $20.7 million loss a year ago. The company's operating loss (EBIT) also shrank to $14.4 million from $35.1 million.

"The first quarter of 2014 demonstrates tangible results from our operating priorities, including increases in television advertising revenue and carriage fees," co-Chief Executive Officer Michael Del Nin said in a statement.

CME last week completed a series of transactions with Time Warner that allowed it to use more than $400 million to redeem 11.625 percent senior notes due in 2016. The deals raised Time Warner's ownership stake to 75.1 percent.

"Having completed the rights offering and private placement and used the proceeds to discharge the 2016 Fixed Rate Notes, we can now focus our energy on operations to significantly improve financial performance throughout this year," Del Nin said.

Time Warner has been strengthening its hold on CME, which was founded by billionaire Ronald Lauder in 1994, since buying into the company in 2009 and has injected cash into the business at other times in the past.

CME also has new chief executives with Time Warner ties since last year and a new chairman after Lauder stepped down in March.

(Reporting by Jason Hovet; Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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