Following the company’s in-depth Investor Day presentations a few weeks ago, last quarter’s numbers probably will mean less to buyers than management’s comments later about business prospects – including this morning’s lift in the full year earnings forecast to high-teen percentage growth from low-teen. Still, the report looks pretty good at first glance. All together, the news helped to lift Time Warner’s share price 2.8% in pre-market trading. Restructuring, severance, and programming charges at Turner contributed to an 18.3% drop vs. last year’s Q3 in net income, to $967 million, on revenues of $6.24 billion, +3.3%. The revenue number beat Wall Street’s expectation for $6.16 billion. Factoring out a $639 million tax benefit from an audit settlement, adjusted earnings per share came in at 97 cents, ahead of forecasts for 94 cents.
“We had another good quarter, featuring solid revenue growth as well as strong growth in Adjusted EPS,” CEO Jeff Bewkes says. He crowed that he has “refocused the Company over the past few years to aggressively pursue the huge global opportunities we see in video content. And once again, we are seeing the benefits of our increased investments in great content and storytelling.”
The Turner Broadcasting unit had a mixed tale to tell. Revenues were up 5% to $2.4 billion largely due to a 10% rise in subscription revenues and 17% increase in content sales while advertising fell 2%. The domestic networks were “essentially flat,” while international ones decreased, the company says. But operating income fell 65%, to $337 million, largely the result of $482 million charge from the decision to “no longer air certain programming.” In addition the company reported $199 million of restructuring and severance costs vs. $30 million in the period last year. Without the one-time expenses, adjusted operating income would have come in at $1 billion.
Home Box Office saw revenues increase 10% to $1.3 billion. Subscription revenues were up 10% – mostly from higher rates and the consolidation of HBO Asia and HBO South Asia – while content sales improved 7%. But operating income fell 24% to $380 million as a result of rising programming costs in comparison to last year which included a $105 million gain from the acquisition of a former partner’s stake in HBO Asia.
And at Warner Bros., television sales helped revenues to grow 3% to $2.8 billion. The company cites improvements in sales to streaming services and the acquisition of Eyeworks Group’s non-US operations as well as “revenues from a patent license and settlement agreement.” But theatrical films – which included Tammy and Dolphin Tale 2 – were no match for last year’s slate which included Pacific Rim, The Conjuring, and We’re the Millers. Operating income dropped 23% to $237 million due to $45 million in restructuring and severance costs, rising production costs, and “a value added tax accrual.”