This is one way to add some excitement to a quarter weighed down by an anemic ad market. Following stock-repurchase increases this week at Fox and Time Warner, CBS says today that it has doubled its buy-back plan to $6B and raised its dividend by 3 cents to 15 cents. It made the announcement in conjunction with its Q2 earnings report, which showed net earnings of $418M, down 3.9% from last year, on revenues of $3.19B, -5.4%. The revenue number was short of analyst forecasts for $3.24B. But adjusted earnings came in at 78 cents a share, topping the Street’s expectation for 72 cents.
“Our high-margin, fast-growing revenue streams continue to drive EPS, and they stand to become an even bigger factor in our growth going forward,” CEO Les Moonves says. He adds that the stock repurchase and dividend increase “once again demonstrate our enduring strength as a content company and our continued commitment to our investors.” He told analysts that the replayment plan “represents more than $11B of value, and more than 30% of the shares of our company.”
The main Entertainment operation, which includes the CBS network, suffered from the relatively weak ad market as well as the absence of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament semifinals, which aired on CBS last year but this year went to TNT. The company also increased its spending on original programming. Operating income fell 12.8% to $341M on revenues of $1.84B, -8.6%.
Cable Networks, including Showtime, saw the increase in revenues from pay TV distributors offset by lower licensing revenues from what it calls “the timing of international sales.” Operating income increased 5.5% to $213M on revenues of $516M, -0.4%.
The Simon & Schuster publishing division’s results improved with help from Cassandra Clare’s City Of Heavenly Fire and Hillary Clinton’s Hard Choices. Operating income was up 15% to $23M on revenues of $211M, +11.6%.
Local broadcasting had the same ad sales struggles as the network. Operating income was down 8.1% to $215M on revenues of $665M, -4.7%. But Moonves told analysts that things should change as political spending increases in the fall. “Both sides are willing to go to great lengths to get their message out. … We are glad to be the beneficiary of this.”