Time Warner earnings up in 1st quarter, beats Street, credits TV networks

NEW YORK, N.Y. – Earnings at Time Warner Inc. grew 24 per cent in the first three months of the year despite a slight drop in revenue, as the company benefited from strength in its television networks.

Time Warner Inc. said Wednesday that first-quarter net income was $720 million, or 75 cents per share, compared with $583 million, or 59 cents, a year earlier. Adjusted for one-time items, the company earned 82 cents per share, beating the 75 cents expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

But revenue of $6.94 billion was short of the $7.16 billion expected by analysts. In the same period last year, revenue was $6.98 billion.

Its stock fell 30 cents, or 0.5 per cent, to close Wednesday at $59.48 after the results came out.

Time Warner said revenue growth at its television channels such as TBS and HBO was offset by declines at the studio production and magazine businesses.

Revenue at the television networks grew 3 per cent to $3.7 billion because of a 5 per cent increase in subscription revenue, such as fees that cable and satellite TV companies pay to carry Turner channels.

Advertising revenue at the networks fell 1 per cent despite higher ad rates, in part because of weakness at CNN and the shutdown of channels in India and Turkey.

The company said the Warner Bros. studio was successful with television productions, including hits such as “Revolution” on NBC and “The Following” on Fox. But revenue at the studio fell 4 per cent to $2.7 billion because its movies didn’t do as well in theatres and it had fewer TV shows available for licensing abroad.

Another weakness was in the Time Inc. magazine business, which the company plans to spin off into a separate publicly traded company by the end of the year. Revenue at Time Inc. fell 5 per cent to $737 million. A 2 per cent increase in advertising revenue was offset by larger declines in subscription and other revenue. Ad revenue grew because the division now handles the websites for Sports Illustrated and Golf.

During a conference call with analysts, CEO Jeff Bewkes said the spin-off should leave Time Warner stronger as “the leading pure-play video content company in the world.” Without Time Inc., he said, the company will get about 90 per cent of profits from television — the cable networks and television production at Warner Bros.

He said Time Warner Cable Inc. and AOL Inc. have both done better as independent companies, after Time Warner Inc. spun them off years ago.

“Back when we did those transactions, it wasn’t common for large media companies to take steps to become smaller, but we did them because we believe they were in the best interest of our stockholders,” he said.

The company also reaffirmed its outlook for the full year. It expects percentage growth in adjusted earnings to be in the low double digits. Analysts were expecting adjusted earnings of $3.68 per share, or about 12 per cent above $3.28 per share in 2012.

Time Warner also said it will issue a dividend of 28.75 cents per share on June 15 to shareholders of record on May 31.