Liberty Media Third-Quarter Earnings Rise

John Malone - Getty - H 2016
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John Malone - Getty - H 2016

The company, controlled by billionaire mogul John Malone, told analysts it will not increase its investment in iHeartMedia, at least for now.

Liberty Media, the company controlled by billionaire mogul John Malone and which houses such assets as satellite radio company SiriusXM Radio, the Atlanta Braves baseball club and the Formula One racing circuit, on Thursday reported higher third-quarter financials.

Quarterly earnings came in at $268 million, up from $168 million in the year-ago period. Operating income rose from $382 million to $531 million.

SiriusXM recorded an 11 percent increase in operating profit to $466 million, while the company's Liberty Braves Group's operating profit of $45 million meant a swing from a year-ago loss of $9 million. Formula One swung to an operating profit of $39 million from a year-ago loss of $10 million.

The company's third-quarter revenue rose from less than $2.1 billion to $2.3 billion. 

"SiriusXM posted yet another outstanding quarter and again increased guidance ... while Live Nation had its best quarter ever with all divisions delivering their strongest quarterly adjusted operating income results,” Liberty Media CEO Greg Maffei said in a statement that accompanied his latest financial results.

Later, during an analyst call, Maffei said SiriusXM will not increase its investment in iHeartMedia, at least for now. "We watch with interest, but It's unlikely we will increase our investment in iHeart at this time," he added, as the U.S. market's largest radio company gets set to file a reorganization plan with a bankruptcy court.

Liberty Media earlier this year pulled a proposed deal to inject $1.16 billion into iHeartMedia. The move followed iHeartMedia, which owns internet station iHeartRadio, rebuffing the proposed cash injection for a 40 percent stake.

Maffei also poured water on media speculation that tech giant Apple will invest in iHeartRadio, in part to benefit Apple Music’s Beats 1 division. "There's zero chance that Apple buys this ... but it's a good rumor if you're holding paper," he added.

Maffeil on the call also talked up SiriusXM's pending $3.5 billion deal to buy Pandora, a move that will eventually leave Liberty Media with a 65 percent stake in the personalized online radio service. "There's some obvious duplication on the cost side and there's things that Sirius does at scale that will be additive to Pandora. How that exactly gets organized is still being worked through," the exec said.

Maffei and Formula 1 boss Chase Carey on the call also told analysts that financial markets were taking an unduly short-term view of efforts to grow the sport competitively and commercially after being acquired by Liberty Media. "We're sort of foundation building and, as we go through 2019, we also expect 2020 and 2021 to also be steps forward," Carey argued.

He added negotiations with race team owners on a new Concorde Agreement, which governs how the sport is run, continue ahead of a 2020 expiry on the current pact. Carey also gave an update on plans by Formula 1 for its live streaming offering, which has launched, but won't be fully marketed and commercially sold until 2019 as early technology and content issues get worked out.

Nov. 8, 12:30 p.m. Updated with comments by senior Liberty Media executives made during an analyst call.