The company posted total revenue of $893.3 million, up more than 25% from the year-earlier quarter and better than the consensus outlook of analysts, which was a shade less than $880 million. Earnings per share came in at $2.10 on a diluted basis, which was less than half of the year-ago period’s $4.32 but a dime ahead of estimates.
Sinclair blamed the profit downturn primarily on comparisons with the 2017, which included a gain of $3.82 per share from the sale of broadcast spectrum.
Still the No. 1 owner of local TV stations, Sinclair is likely to slip to No. 2 this year if Nexstar closes its acquisition of Tribune Media as expected. Since its own plan to buy Tribune ran afoul of regulators last summer, Sinclair has moved on to other strategic ventures such as a partnership with the Chicago Cubs baseball team for the launch of a new regional sports network in Chicago. The company has also teamed with private equity firm Apollo to explore a bid for the Fox-owned RSNs that Disney is divesting as part of its acquisition of most of Fox.
In the company’s earnings release, CEO Chris Ripley noted that political ad spending in the mid-term year 2018 reached $255 million, and he expects a record haul in 2020, with some of the investment hitting the balance sheet by the end of 2019.
Along with its quarterly and full-year report, Sinclair issued a dividend of 20 cents per share on its Class A and Class B common stock. The dividend is payable on March 25 to the holders of record at the close of business on March 11. Shares in Sinclair were up in pre-market trading. They entered the trading day at $32.81, which is toward the high end of its 52-week range.