Time Warner Reports Higher Fourth-Quarter Earnings, Raises Dividend

2012-43 REP Jeff Bewkes P

Time Warner's chairman and CEO scores a new five-year deal that could earn him an additional $30 million in stock bonuses if the company thrives.

UPDATED: The entertainment conglomerate's quarterly results beat Wall Street estimates as its TV networks and film units hit record profits.

Time Warner on Wednesday reported fourth-quarter earnings that beat year-ago results and Wall Street estimates despite a 4 percent revenue decline.

It also committed to an additional $4 billion in stock buybacks and raised its quarterly dividend by 11 percent. That will bring annual dividend payments to $1.15 per share from $1.04. 

The company posted earnings of $1.17 billion, compared with $772 million in the year-ago period. Adjusted operating profit amounted to $1.98 billion, up from $1.71 billion. TW, led by CEO Jeff Bewkes, once again posted higher fourth-quarter profits for its TV and film units, which set profit records.

Revenue for the entertainment conglomerate declined slightly to $8.16 billion from $8.19 billion though.

For the full year 2012, adjusted operating profit grew 4 percent to a record $6.1 billion as revenue declined slightly from $28.97 billion to $28.73 billion.

“In 2012, we had another strong year financially and operationally while we laid the foundation for continued growth," Bewkes said.

Time Warner's stock rose around 4 percent in pre-market trading, putting it on track to hit another 52-week high when the stock markets open. It set a high of $51.29 in late January.

In the film unit, quarterly revenue dropped 4 percent, but operating profit rose 29 percent to $552 million. Key titles in the quarter were Argo and The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. The conglomerate's film profit reached the second-highest full-year mark ever.

In the TV networks unit, revenue rose 5 percent, including a 3 percent advertising improvement, as operating income increased 21 percent to $1.4 billion. HBO subscriber growth, higher ad pricing, an increase in the number of NBA games and higher ratings at CNN due to the 2012 U.S. presidential election all boosted results.

TW said it took a $60 million charge for laying off several hundred staffers at its Time Inc. magazine unit.

Email: Georg.Szalai@thr.com

Twitter: @georgszalai