UPDATED: Time Warner shares opened down 11.3% to a new 52-week low following the big revenue miss and other worrisome signs in its Q4 report this morning — and despite management’s bullish forecasts. The entertainment giant raised its dividend by 15%, launched a new $5 billion stock repurchase initiative, and projected adjusted earnings for this year of between $5.30 and $5.40 — ahead of the Street’s expectations for about $5.28.
The stock price now is down more than 30% over the last 12 months as investors fear that cable networks will lose audiences and advertising as digital media grow.
For the year-end quarter, Time Warner generated $857 million in net income, up 19.4% from the end of 2014, on revenues of $7.08 billion, down 5.9%. Analysts expected the top line to hit $7.53 billion. Adjusted earnings at $1.06 a share topped the consensus forecast for $1.01.
“We had another very successful year in 2015, demonstrating once again Time Warner’s ability to deliver strong financial performance as well as creative and programming excellence,” CEO Jeff Bewkes says.
At the main Turner cable networks unit, revenues increased 2% to $2.7 billion but adjusted operating income fell 15% to $781 million due in part to a 22% increase in programming expenses. Ad sales were up 5%, helped by CNN and the baseball playoffs which offered more games in Q4 than the company had the the previous year’s quarter.
Subscription and content revenues were “essentially flat,” Time Warner says.
HBO’s adjusted operating income was basically flat at $393 million despite a 6% increase in revenues to $1.4 billion. Subscription revenues rose 3% while content sales were up 20%. But much of that was eaten up by the 11% increase in programming costs and expenses for the roll out of HBO Now.
Time Warner had little to say about Warner Bros’ Q4 performance — as revenues fell 13% to $3.3 billion and adjusted operating income was down 5% to $373 million. Films including Pan, In The Heart Of The Sea, Point Break, and Creed couldn’t match the 2014 period which had The Hobbit: The Battle Of The Five Armies, Interstellar, and Annabelle.
The profit line looked better than revenues compared to last year when Warner Bros’ bottom line was hurt by $119 million of restructuring and severance costs.