AOL Posts Profit in First Quarter as Independent

AOL earnings

AOL this morning released its first financial results since its spinoff from Time Warner, posting a modest profit amid declining advertising and subscription revenues.

In the fourth quarter of 2009, AOL (NYSE: AOL) posted a profit of $1.4 million, or a penny a share, compared to the year-earlier period when the Time Warner (NYSE: TWX) posted a $1.96 billion loss, weighed down by a one-time charges of $2.2 billion.

But overall revenues plunged 17 percent from last year, as ad spending remains tepid and AOL continues to shed subscribers to its fading dial-up Internet service division.

Nevertheless, AOL’s $809.7 million in total revenue for the quarter topped analysts’ expectation of $763.5 million, according to polling by Thomson Reuters.

AOL posted advertising revenue of $472 million, an 8 percent decline from the fourth quarter of 2009. The Internet subscription business plummeted 28 percent to $307 million for the period, down from $429 million last year.

AOL emerged as an independent publicly traded company on Dec. 10, ending what has been widely lampooned as one of the worst corporate mergers in history.

As a standalone, AOL is staking its future on building out a vibrant content network supported by display advertising, while continuing to promote services like its popular instant messaging client and e-mail and deemphasizing its search engine.

CEO Tim Armstrong, who previously served as Google’s (NASDAQ: GOOG) top sales executive in North America, has made it clear that the company is focused on a turnaround this year. After hefty layoffs and a bit of internal reorganization, AOL has been beefing up its content production, including ventures like, headed by former New York Times reporter Saul Hansell, which draws on a vast pool of freelancers to produce low-cost articles on a variety of topics to appear on AOL’s verticals.

“We have made significant progress in support of the long-term vision we see in the future of AOL,” CEO Tim Armstrong said in a statement. “But today’s results continue to reflect the need for our focus and execution on the work required in the turnaround of the company.”

Shares of AOL rose 1 percent to $24.91 in early trading.

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