Viacom Net Earnings Drop, U.S. Ad Sales Fall 6 Percent

Results of the entertainment conglomerate, led by CEO Philippe Dauman, were affected by foreign-exchange effects and special items, but earnings per share hit a record for the final calendar year quarter

Viacom, led by CEO Philippe Dauman, on Thursday reported fiscal first-quarter financials affected by currency fluctuations and ratings challenges.

Net earnings of $500 million for the latest quarter compared with $547 million in the year-ago period, down 9 percent. Amid continued stock buybacks, earnings per share hit $1.29 on an adjusted basis though, compared with $1.20 in the year-ago period. The company said that was a record for the last quarter of the calendar year.

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Revenue rose 5 percent to $3.34 billion. Wall Street had, on average, expected quarterly earnings of $1.28 per share from Viacom on revenue of $3.4 billion.

The latest earnings of the entertainment conglomerate were affected by foreign-exchange effects and special items, including a pension settlement and a tax expense. The adjusted earnings per share figure excludes the pension and tax expenses.

U.S. advertising sales were down 6 percent amid lower ratings, while international ad sales rose 60 percent helped by the acquisition late last year of U.K. broadcaster Channel 5.

"Viacom's powerful entertainment brands continue to lead the way in reaching global audiences with groundbreaking content," said executive chairman Sumner Redstone. "Our outstanding management team has positioned Viacom for continued success."

Dauman said: "Viacom's focus on developing popular franchise properties and constantly expanding our growing international presence drove solid top-line results and record earnings per share this quarter. We continued to deliver increased revenues in our media networks operations driven by steady growth in affiliate revenues, and also benefited from Paramount Pictures' Oscar-nominated
Interstellar
and our very successful company-wide franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles."

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Viacom's TV networks revenue increased 4 percent to $2.65 billion due to higher affiliate fees and a 3 percent gain in advertising revenue, driven by the increase in the international business. The company said revenue included an unfavorable 1 percent impact of foreign-exchange fluctuations as the dollar has seen its value rise in comparison to other currencies. Networks adjusted operating income declined 1 percent due to higher programming expenses. Excluding the impact of foreign exchange, effects, revenue was flat in the latest quarter.

Film unit revenue grew 6 percent to $720 million. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles "remained a strong performer in the [latest] quarter, complementing the current quarter releases and helping to drive a 6 percent increase in theatrical revenues and a 16 percent gain in home entertainment revenues," Viacom said. Film adjusted operating loss amounted to $60 million in the quarter, compared with a loss of $74 million in the year-ago period, as higher revenue offset increases in film and distribution expenses.

Email: Georg.Szalai@THR.com
Twitter: @georgszalai

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