CBS has a gift for its shareholders as Wall Street awaits the release later today of its Q2 earnings: Its board voted to raise the quarterly dividend by 20% to 18 cents a share, and raise the stock buyback plan to $6 billion from the $1 billion left at the end of June.
The first of the higher dividend payments will go out on October 1 to shareholders of record as of September 9.
The announcement comes as some analysts question whether the broadcaster can continue to show the kind of growth that fueled a nearly 15% growth in its stock price so far in 2016.
For example, this month UBS Global Research’s Doug Mitchelson downgraded CBS to “sell,” saying he believes TV advertising will lose steam after the Olympics. He sees “slower 2017 growth prospects given tough political and Super Bowl comparisons, and would note that primetime entertainment ratings declines this past season for the CBS Network (including an unusual lack of new hits) suggest greater content cyclicality risk than investors are currently discounting.”
Others are more optimistic. Stifel’s Benjamin Mogil still rates CBS a “buy” saying he believes execs “will point to the successful financing of Star Trek for All Access whereby the production costs have largely been met from foreign sales, allowing the company to have limited costs leading to higher flow-through from subscriber growth at the service.”
Wall Street also wonders about CBS’ future amid speculation that controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone might want to re-merge it with Viacom. That’s seen as a possibility as he and his daughter Shari engage in multiple court battles to oust Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman. He says that the 93-year-old mogul is no longer capable of making his own decisions — a charge the Redstone camp rejects.