(Corrects adjusted earnings per share in last paragraph to profit 13 cents from loss 3 cents)
* Q2 earnings of $10.17 a share vs loss of 11 cents yr-ago
* Total revenue fell 2 pct but beats Wall Street estimates
* Advertising revenue up 6 pct
By Jennifer Saba
July 25 (Reuters) - The sale of its patents to Microsoft helped AOL Inc swing to a profit in the second quarter from a loss a year ago.
The company reported second quarter net income on Wednesday of $970.8 million, or $10.17 per share, following a net loss a year earlier of $11.8 million, or 11 cents per share.
It was the first time in four years that AOL reported growth in operating income before depreciation and amortization.
“On the top line, it’s better than expected,” said Ron Josey, an analyst with Think Equity. “We actually think it shows encouraging signs.”
In recent months, the company has been aggressively giving back to investors. AOL won a bitter proxy battle against activist hedge fund Starboard Value and has pledged to give the entire proceeds of its $1 billion patent sale to Microsoft back to shareholders.
Total revenue fell 2 percent to $531.1 million, but beat analysts’ expectations of $519.4 million, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Still, AOL is having problems gaining traction in a key area for the company - display advertising.
While advertising revenue increased 6 percent it was mainly due to ad sales in the United Kingdom and Canada and from its third party ad network platform Advertising.com.
Revenue for display ads in the United States was flat, underscoring the challenge it faces as it seeks marketers to buy big, pricey ads that appear on web pages.
In the U.S., online advertising spending in the second quarter increased almost 24 percent, according to research firm eMarketer.
In the previous quarter, display advertising revenue fell 1 percent in the U.S.
Excluding income from patent licensing and sales, costs related to the proxy battle and patent sales, and expenses associated with settling a state tax matter, AOL reported earnings of 13 cents per share. Analysts expected 10 cents, according to I/B/E/S. (Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York and Sayantani Ghosh in Bangalore; Editing by Bernadette Baum)