Time Warner’s fourth quarter results topped Wall Street forecasts, with the better-than-expected revenue increase driven by the cable TV businesses and Warner Bros.’s theatrical releases.
The media conglom’s revenue rose 5% in the fourth quarter, to $8.57 billion, and the company posted earnings per share of $1.17 (excluding certain items), up 1% from $1.16 in the year-earlier quarter. Analysts had forecast $8.39 billion in revenue and $1.15 adjusted EPS.
However, Time Warner’s total net income in the fourth quarter fell 12% to $983 million. The company cited higher programming costs for HBO and Turner Broadcasting and declines at Time Inc., the flagging publishing unit Time Warner plans to divest by mid-year. Full-year 2013 net profit jumped 26% to $3.69 billion.
“We had another very successful year in 2013, with Turner, Home Box Office and Warner Bros. all posting record profits while also investing for future growth,” chairman and CEO Jeff Bewkes said in announcing the results.
At Warner Bros., revenue rose 7% to $4 billion in the fourth quarter, with operating income up 4% to $573 million. The studio’s topline growth was mainly due to stronger theatrical and videogames releases including “Gravity” (pictured, above) and “The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.” That was partially offset by a 6% decline in homevideo revenue, to $1.26 billion for the period, and lower TV licensing revenue from films.
Time Warner for the first time broke out results for Turner Broadcasting and HBO, a change to “provide more transparency into the business” with the Time Inc. spinoff, a company rep said.
In Q4, Turner, whose networks include TNT, TBS and CNN, posted 3% increase in revenue to $2.5 billion, with affiliate fees up 6% and ad sales up 1%. Operating income fell 10% to $853 million, with the company citing a 12% jump in programming costs — including investments in CNN original programming — and higher marketing expenses.
HBO revenue for Q4 rose 6% to $1.3 billion, due to subscription revenue growth of 8% partially offset by a decrease of 9% in content sales. The increase in subscription revenues resulted mainly from the premium cabler’s higher U.S. rates and the consolidation of HBO Asia and HBO Nordic. HBO’s operating income decreased 4% to $413 million, attributed to a 12% increase in programming costs.
Time Warner pointed out its record 2013 would have been even rosier without Time Inc., which Bewkes reiterated is on track to be spun off during the second quarter of 2014. On Tuesday, the magazine publishing unit said it cut an unspecified number of job, with reports that up to 500 of Time Inc.’s 7,800 employees could get pinkslipped. For the full-year 2013, Time Inc. revenue declined 2% to $3.4 billion, reflecting decreases of 7% in subscription revenues and 1% drop in ad sales, while operating income decreased 20% to $337 million.
With the overall solid financials, the company’s board increased the regular quarterly dividend by 10%, to $0.3175 per share. In addition, Time Warner announced a $5 billion share-repurchase program after returning nearly that much in 2013 to stockholders in the form of share buybacks and dividends.
For 2014, Time Warner expects its full-year percentage growth rate in adjusted earnings per share to be in the “low double digits” compared with an adjusted EPS of $3.51 for 2013 (excluding Time Inc.).
That’s the same guidance Time Warner has provided for the past several years, according to Bernstein Research analyst Todd Juenger, indicating that the Time Inc. spinoff is not expected to increase the Time Warner’s growth rate.
Meanwhile, Time Warner said it expects to recognize a pretax gain of $700 million to $800 million on the sale of 1 million sq. ft. of office space it owned in Time Warner Center in New York City for approximately $1.3 billion. The company sold the space to Related Cos., the real-estate firm that developed the complex, and its financiers. Under the deal, Time Warner also agreed to lease office space in the building until early 2019. The company also expects to recognize a tax benefit of approximately $50 million to $70 million related to the sale.