The newly merged company said it has undertaken proactive “cost-saving initiatives” to offset the sudden loss of revenue from advertising and other sources as the U.S. and other key markets implemented aggressive social distancing mandates. Disney, Comcast and Sony Corp. have issued similar statements addressing the material impact to operations caused by the global turmoil over the fast-spreading COVID-19 virus.
“The magnitude of the impacts will depend on the duration and extent of the COVID-19 pandemic and the impact of federal, state, local and foreign governmental actions and consumer behavior in response to the pandemic and such governmental actions,” ViacomCBS said in a statement. “Due to the evolving and uncertain nature of this situation, we are not able to estimate the full extent of the negative impact on ViacomCBS’ operating results, cash flows and financial position – including advertising and filmed entertainment revenues – particularly over the near to medium term.”
ViacomCBS had previously forecast it would generate adjusted free cash flow of $1.8 billion-$2 billion in 2020 and mid single-digit growth in revenue. Adjusted operating income was pegged at $5.8 billion-$6.1 billion.
At the same time, ViacomCBS affirmed its previous guidance to investors that the company would achieve $750 million in synergy saving in the three years following the closing of the deal, which was clinched in early December. The company also said it was on track to have 16 million subscribers for CBS All Access and the standalone Showtime app, as well as 30 million active monthly users on its Pluto TV ad-supported streaming platform.
On Friday, the company also addressed its debt and liquidity situation, citing a $3.5 billion revolving credit facility that has not been tapped. It has about $632 million in cash on the books and $932 million in short-term indebtedness, with debt payments of $300 million coming due in February 2021 and $500 million in March 2021.
ViacomCBS’ warning to investors comes a day after its parent company, National Amusements Inc., announced an amended credit agreement that allowed NAI to deal with its debt obligations without having to sell any of its ViacomCBS stock holdings. Such a move would have been a blow to ViacomCBS at a time when its stock has already been hammered by Wall Street’s doubts about the company’s strategy and the historic rout of the broader market during the past two weeks.
ViacomCBS shares were hit in trading Friday by the warning as well as the release of a tough report on the company’s fortunes from analyst Michael Nathanson of MoffettNathanson, who cut his target price for shares by $14 to $21.