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Clear Channel's 3Q earnings soar, revenue droops

SAN ANTONIO (AP) -- Clear Channel Outdoor Holdings Inc.'s third-quarter earnings surged as it sold more billboard advertising in several growing international markets to overcome weakening demand in many parts of Europe's ailing economy.

The higher profit announced Friday surprised analysts, who had been bracing for the company to post a loss for the three months ending in September.

Instead, Clear Channel earned $17.3 million, or 5 cents per share, for the period. That represented a more than five-fold increase from net income of $3.2 million, or a penny per share, at the same time last year.

Analysts surveyed by FactSet expected a loss of 3 cents per share.

Revenue dipped 2 percent to $731.1 million, about $3 million shy of analysts' projections.

Investors appeared to focus more on the revenue shortfall as Clear Channel shares fell 22 cents, or 3.2 percent, to close at $6.63.

The company, based in San Antonio, said its billboards attracted more interest from advertisers in China and Australia during the quarter.

Advertising sales were lackluster in the Americas region, which includes the U.S. Revenue there edged up by 2 percent, or $8 million, from the same time last year. Most of the gains were concentrated in digital billboards.

The company was hurt by declining ad sales in France, southern Europe and Nordic countries amid anemic economic conditions. The United Kingdom was Clear Channel's lone bright spot in Europe, thanks to an advertising blitz triggered by the Summer Olympics in London during late July and early August.

"The business continues to operate in challenging market conditions, particularly in Europe, and we have taken significant measures to reduce costs in response to this market uncertainty," Clear Channel CEO William Eccleshare said.