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Warner Music Group 2018 Revenue Tops $4 Billion, Streaming Up 20% 

Warner Music Group Corp. today announced that in 2018 its revenue exceeded $4 billion for the first time in company history during its call for fourth-quarter and full-year financial results for the period ended September 30, 2018. It also noted that streaming revenue is up 20.4% (18.5% in constant currency).

“We’ve had another terrific year and revenue exceeded $4 billion for the first time in our 15-year history as a standalone company,” said Steve Cooper, Warner Music Group’s CEO.  “We continue to invest in our business for the benefit of our recording artists and songwriters and to fuel our long-term growth.”

“The fact that we ended the year with over $500 million in cash, despite significant spend on A&R, marketing, M&A and dividends, is evidence of the underlying strength of our business,” added Eric Levin, Warner Music Group’s Executive Vice President and CFO.  “We’re on a great run and I’m looking forward to many more years of success.”

Answering a question about whether streaming revenue will begin to fall off in the coming months, Cooper said he expects it to “grow in a robust way,” noting that it will slow down over time in western countries as saturation begins. In emerging markets, he said, revenues and subscribers are “just now being tapped and I would expect to see growth,” noting that economics will probably be “reduced” by comparison, and “we can expect over a time a more modest trajectory.”

According to the report, for the fourth quarter, WMG revenue grew 13.3% (or 14.8% in constant currency).  Growth in Recorded Music digital, licensing and artist services and expanded-rights revenue and growth in Music Publishing digital, performance, synchronization and mechanical revenue were partially offset by a decline in Recorded Music physical revenue.  Revenue grew in all regions.  Digital revenue grew 21.4% (or 23.1% in constant currency), and represented 57.4% of total revenue, compared to 53.5% in the prior-year quarter.

Operating income was $16 million compared to an operating loss of $1 million in the prior-year quarter.  OIBDA was $72 million, up 20.0% from $60 million in the prior-year quarter and OIBDA margin increased 0.4 percentage points to 6.9% from 6.5% in the prior-year quarter.  Net loss was $13 million compared to a net loss of $38 million in the prior-year quarter and adjusted net income was $10 million compared to an adjusted net loss of $39 million in the prior-year quarter. As of September 30, 2018, the Company reported a cash balance of $514 million, total debt of $2.819 billion and net debt (total long-term debt, net of deferred financing costs, minus cash) of $2.305 billion.

For the year, total revenue increased 12.0% (or 9.2% in constant currency). Domestic revenue rose 10.5% and international revenue rose 12.7% (or 7.8% in constant currency).  Revenue grew in all regions.  Digital revenue grew 20.4% (or 18.5% in constant currency), and represented 56.2% of total revenue, compared to 52.3% in the prior year.

Operating income was $217 million down from $222 million in the prior year and operating margin was 5.4% down from 6.2% in the prior year, driven by higher revenue which was more than offset by increased investment in A&R and marketing as well as higher SG&A expenses including for variable compensation, restructuring and facilities expenses related to the Los Angeles office consolidation.

Net income was $312 million compared to $149 million in the prior year.  Adjusted net income was $388 million compared to $162 million in the prior year, reflecting higher other income related to the net gain on the Spotify share sale, a prior-year loss on revaluation of the company’s Euro-denominated debt due to changes in exchange rates, a prior-year non-cash loss on investments, lower interest expense in the fiscal year, higher income tax expense related to the impact of tax reform on deferred tax assets in the fiscal year, the prior-year benefit from the reversal of a U.S. deferred tax valuation allowance and the prior-year tax benefit of currency losses on inter-company loans.  Net debt (total long-term debt, net of deferred financing costs, minus cash) at the end of the fiscal year was $2.305 billion versus $2.164 billion at the end of the prior year, mainly due to the difference in year-end cash balances.

Recorded Music revenue grew 12.5% (or 13.9% in constant currency).  Digital growth reflects a continuing shift to streaming. Licensing revenue growth was due to increased synchronization activity, timing-related higher broadcast fee income and the impact of acquisitions.

During the call, Cooper cited the success of Atlantic’s Cardi B, Ed Sheeran, Bruno Mars and “The Greatest Showman” soundtrack; for Warner Bros. Records Dua Lipa, Bebe Rexha and Lil Pump; and for Nashville Dan and Shay. He also paid tribute to late Warner recording artists Aretha Franklin and Mac Miller.

Recorded Music operating income was $31 million, up 121.4% from $14 million in the prior-year quarter and operating margin was up 1.8 percentage points to 3.6% versus 1.8% in the prior-year quarter.

For the full year, recorded music revenue rose 11.3% (or 8.5% in constant currency). Recorded music digital revenue grew 19.3% (or 17.3% in constant currency) and represented 60.1% of total recorded music revenue versus 56.0% in the prior year.  Domestic recorded music digital revenue was $1.037 billion, or 71.0% of total domestic Recorded Music revenue, versus 67.2% in the prior year.

Recorded music operating income was $307 million up from $283 million in the prior year due to revenue growth and operating margin was down 0.3 percentage points to 9.1% versus 9.4% in the prior year due to higher compensation and higher facilities expenses related to the Los Angeles office consolidation.

For Warner/Chappell publishing, in Q4 revenue rose 15.7% (or 18.0% in constant currency) with growth in all segments reflecting the ongoing shift to streaming in digital, timing of distributions in performance, higher licensing revenue in synchronization and the timing of mechanical distributions. Publishing operating income was $39 million compared with $36 million in the prior-year quarter driven by revenue growth.

For the full year, publishing revenue rose 14.2% (or 11.8% in constant currency) with growth in all segments.  Music Publishing digital revenue rose 26.7% (or 25.4% in constant currency) reflecting the ongoing shift to streaming, and represented 36.3% of total Music Publishing revenue versus 32.7% in the prior year.  Growth in performance revenue was due to higher distributions, synchronization revenue growth was driven by higher television and commercials income and mechanical revenue growth was timing-related.

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