AOL Earnings Plunge

Shares of NYC-based AOL (NYSE: AOL  ) are soaring in early Tuesday trading, following a third-quarter earnings report that showed the company beating analyst expectations on revenue, but seeming to fall far short on earnings.

Prior to this morning's report, analysts had anticipated AOL would earn $0.35 per share on $548.8 million in revenues. In fact, the company's earnings came in at only $0.02 per share. However, investors appear to be focusing more on the company's surprising strength in revenues, which came in at $561.3 million.

AOL's revenue number was 6% greater than in the year-ago quarter, with significant growth being shown in advertising as a whole (up 14%) and in Third Party Network in particular (up 32%). In comments, AOL noted that Third Party Network revenue was "driven by growth in the sale of premium formats, primarily video." Revenues from the company's acquisition of Adap.tv contributed significantly to the gains, but revenues in this segment would have been up 17% even without the acquisition, AOL pointed out.

Meanwhile, from the perspective of cash, AOL reported generating free cash flow of $64.6 million in the quarter. This was down 10% year over year. And yet, as compared to the 91% drop-off in diluted earnings per share, AOL's free cash flow number showed that business at the company was not nearly as bad as the headline number might have made it appear.

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