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AOL loses $44.9 billion, Turner stepping down

New York, - AOL Time Warner reported a $44.9 billion fourth-quarter loss today, due to another huge charge for its dwindling America Online unit, but excluding one-time items, the company's results still topped Wall Street forecasts.

America's largest media company said it earned 28 cents a share excluding special items, compared with 26 cents a share a year earlier. Analysts had forecast profits of 26 cents a share excluding items, on average.

Separately, the company said CNN founder Ted Turner was stepping down as vice chairman of AOL Time Warner, effective in May.

"Last night, Ted Turner informed me of his decision to step down from his duties as the company's vice chairman at this May's annual shareholders meeting," said AOL chief executive Richard Parsons, on a conference call with analysts, according to Reuters. "It will allow him to devote more time to his philanthropic and other interests," he said.

In the fourth quarter, the company took a charge of $45.5 billion to reflect the loss of value at its various business units, more than twice what some analysts had expected. The America Online unit took most of the charge, about $33.5 billion, while cable operations caused $10.5 billion and the music segment recorded $1.5 billion.

The charges come on top of earlier charges of $54.2 billion announced during the company's second quarter, which left the company with a net loss for the year of $98.7 billion, or $22.15 a share.

Revenue rose to $11.4 billion from $10.6 billion, as strong box office and DVD sales and improving ad revenue from old line media such as television and magazines overcame declining revenue at AOL.

The company said it expects revenue in 2003 to post a percentage gain in the mid-single digits, roughly in line with First Call's forecast of revenue of $43.1 billion, which is about 5 percent better than the $41.1 billion in revenue it posted for 2002.

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