Paranormal Activity? Heads Spin On Wall Street Over Viacom's Mixed Report

Hats off to Susquehanna Financial Group’s Vasily Karasyov for having the wit today to describe Viacom’s creaky financial performance in the last three months of 2011 as “A Quarter Of Paranormal Activity.”  But from the look of the inconsistent reactions to this morning’s news, one might wonder whether the mysterious forces from Paramount’s horror film franchise also were stirring on Wall Street. Investor views seemed to gyrate through the day as Viacom shares initially fell 4.5% from yesterday’s close, then leaped to a 2.1% gain before closing at $46.69, down 0.6%. Analysts also were all over the lot about the company’s prospects this year. Karasyov lowered his ad growth forecast for the current quarter to 1% from 4% after Viacom reported that fiscal 1Q sales fell 3% — mostly due to the ongoing ratings problems at Nickelodeon. Credit Suisse’s Spencer Wang lowered his earnings per share estimate for this year by 2% to $4.28. But Janney Capital Markets’ Tony Wible was impressed by Viacom’s share repurchases and projections of rising pay TV fees, and raised his 2012 EPS forecast 1.2% to $4.16. Wells Fargo’s Marci Ryvicker held fast to her $4.27 prediction. Calling herself “not only surprised by the decline (in advertising) but disappointed,” she adds that “profitability has held up” putting Viacom “on track to hit its 20% target margin next fiscal year.”

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