Cost cuts boost Viacom 4Q but ad sales weak

Cost-cutting at Paramount Pictures boosted profits at media giant Viacom Inc., but advertisers remained cautious about spending money during the holiday quarter.

Ad revenue fell 3 percent overall in the three months to December on Viacom cable channels such as Nickelodeon, BET and Comedy Central. That reflected ongoing economic uncertainty that kept companies hesitant about how much to spend to entice customers.

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“Domestic unemployment continues to be a serious concern for all marketers, but we do see growing signs of strength,” Chief Executive Philippe Dauman said on a conference call Thursday. Viacom expects an improvement in ad revenue in the current quarter compared to the last.

Dauman said Viacom will invest more money on new programs to boost audience numbers at MTV in the hope that advertisers will follow. [Read the full article]

Dear Driving for Dollars, I am just graduating from college and want to buy a car. I bought a house with cash about two months ago. The house costs more than twice than the car I want. Should I use a home equity line of credit to make my purchase or an auto loan? I have good credit and make payments on time. — Alex

Dear Alex, It sounds like you are doing terrific financially at a young age. Congratulations! Since you have good credit, you have lots of options. Even so, the national average for a home equity line of credit, or HELOC, was about 1 percent lower than an auto loan. So assuming the terms are the same and the auto manufacturer isn’t offering low interest loans for the car you want, a HELOC may be your best bet. To be sure, compare the interest rates for the HELOC as well as the auto loan rates at, or your local credit union, bank and the auto manufacturer’s lender. [Read the full article]

BOTTOM LINE: Duke Energy’s fourth-quarter profit rises as cost cuts offset continued weak demand for electricity from its four million customers in the Midwest and the Carolinas.

THE BUSINESS: Industrial demand not as bad during the quarter and showing signs of stabilizing after being down as much as 20 percent earlier in the year.

THE SOLUTION: After cutting expenses by $150 million last year, Duke says cost cuts will be key factor for the company until demand improves.

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Quotes and other information supplied by independent providers identified on the Yahoo! Finance partner page. Quotes are updated automatically, but will be turned off after 25 minutes of inactivity. Quote data delayed 15 minutes for Nasdaq, NYSE and Amex. [Read the full article]

Icelandic officials on Monday met representatives of Britain and the Netherlands in London hoping to strike a new deal on returning $5.7 billion owed to the two countries following the collapse of the Icesave online bank.

A five-delegate negotiating team — led by attorney Lee Buchheit, of the New York-based office of Cleary Gottlieb Steen & Hamilton — held talks at the Iceland Embassy in London, the country’s finance ministry said.

Iceland’s government is seeking to re-negotiate the terms of a deal to return funds spent by Britain and the Netherlands to compensate their citizens’ depositors in Icesave, an Internet bank that collapsed with its parent Landsbanki in October 2008.

The government hopes a new repayment deal would allow it to avoid a planned national referendum on the repayment deal, scheduled to take place March 6. [Read the full article]

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