UPDATE, 9:45 AM: The roller coaster’s headed down again. Shares are off about 8% following this morning’s conference call. Analysts say that they found little reassuring news in the earnings report. “Cablevision, surprisingly perhaps, beat on all their subscriber metrics,” Bernstein Research’s Craig Moffett says. “But they missed on every financial metric.”
PREVIOUS, 8:49AM: It’s been a roller coaster morning for Cablevision. The stock fell initially after the company released a Q1 financial report that showed soaring capital expenditures — and beat earnings forecasts because of a gain in investment income. But the Street became more enthusiastic as people absorbed the additional news that Cablevision added $500M to its stock repurchase plan, declared a 15 cents a share dividend, and plans to sell its Clearview Cinemas chain. Another surprise: CEO Jim Dolan handled the quarterly conference call with analysts. The often reclusive exec has become more hands-on at the company since late last year when COO Tom Rutledge left to become CEO of Charter Communications. Dolan says “I’m planning on staying right where I am through this year and beyond. We have a lot of work to do, and I feel I need to be here to do it.” He also addressed the executive exodus that’s been taking place. Dolan says that while “changes are inevitable,” the people he has brought in have “fresh ideas and renewed energy.”
The Q1 report showed Cablevision’s challenges. It reported net earnings of $57.2M, down 45%, on revenues of $1.7B, up 0.2%. (Last year’s net income included $35M from AMC Networks, which was spun off in June.) The revenue figure was ahead of analysts’ $1.6B forecast. And earnings from continuing operations, at 21 cents a share, beat the 19 cent prediction. But the earnings figure includes a $135M gain on investment. On an apples-to-apples basis, the EPS figure would be 16 cents, Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker says. Analysts were pleased to see Cablevision add 7,000 video customers. But they also wonder whether the gains come at too high a financial cost as the company competes with Verizon and AT&T. Cablevision didn’t raise the price of its cable service this year. Asked if an increase might be coming, Dolan says he “wouldn’t totally rule it out. But it’s out for this quarter.” Also, Cablevision’s capital expenditures were up nearly 65% to $216.1M. CFO Gregg Siebert also warned analysts that cap ex “will be substantially higher” for the year. Much of the spending will go to initiatives to expand broadband capacity, wi-fi services, TV Everywhere services, and to add VOD titles.