Time Warner Second-Quarter Earnings Rise, Exceed Expectations

Jeff Bewkes

Time Warner CEO Jeff Bewkes saw his 2012 pay remain pretty steady at $25.9 million. The company's stock rose around 30 percent last year, but his compensation was virtually unchanged. His stock awards amounted to $6.9 million, up from $6.1 million in 2011, but option awards declined from $3.96 million to $2.96 million.

UPDATED: HBO drives growth as Warner Bros. and Turner also record higher profits and the company launches a new $5 billion stock buyback program after Fox withdrew its takeover bid late on Tuesday.

Time Warner, led by CEO Jeff Bewkes, on Wednesday reported higher second-quarter earnings that exceeded Wall Street estimates amid continued strong growth at HBO.

Warner Bros. and Turner also posted improved quarterly profits. 

The company also unveiled a new $5 billion stock buyback program, which analysts expect to go over well with shareholders, and reaffirmed its full-year 2014 financial outlook.

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The earnings report came after Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, after Tuesday's stock market close, said it was withdrawing its takeover bid for Time Warner, which had rejected the company's first offer of $80 billion.

The news led to a sharp drop in TW's stock in after-hours trading, but it settled at around $76, up from around $71 before Fox confirmed its bid last month.

Time Warner reported second-quarter earnings of $850 million, compared with $771 million in the year-ago period. On a per-share basis, that amounted to 98 cents, well above analysts' average forecast of 84 cents per share. Revenue rose 3 percent to $6.8 billion.

The earnings report was the company's first since the June spinoff of the Time Inc. magazine business.

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"We had another strong quarter, reflecting the strength of our businesses and our potential for continued growth as we deliver on our strategic plan to be the world's leading video content company," Bewkes said. "Our commitment to invest in great storytelling was evident across the company," he added, citing such hit TV shows as Game of Thrones and True Detective on HBO.

He said the quarter also benefited from the home video releases of the second installment of The Hobbit and The Lego Movie.

Warner Bros. reported that second-quarter revenue dropped 2 percent to $2.9 billion "mainly due to softer theatrical performance in the current-year quarter compared to the prior year’s theatrical slate, which included Man of Steel, The Hangover Part III and The Great Gatsby." The decline was partially offset by an increase in home entertainment revenue due to the timing of the release of The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, the strong performance of The Lego Movie and continued growth in electronic sell-through.

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But adjusted operating profit at the film unit jumped 28 percent to $236 million as contributions from home entertainment and TV, as well as lower restructuring costs and reversals of bad debt reserves, more
than offset the softer theatrical performances.

HBO's quarterly revenue grew 17 percent to $1.4 billion amid higher subscription and content revenue. "Subscription revenues increased mainly from higher domestic rates and the consolidation of HBO Asia and HBO South Asia and HBO Nordic," the company said. The increase in content revenue was driven by the licensing of select originals to Amazon's Prime Instant Video service.

Second-quarter adjusted operating income at HBO increased 23 percent to $552 million thanks to higher revenue, partially offset by increased expenses due to higher programming costs, which were up 11 percent partly due to higher spending on original shows, and a year-ago $31 million adjustment.

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The Turner cable networks grew revenue 5 percent to $2.8 billion amid a gain in subscription revenue and a 1 percent gain in advertising revenue.

Turner's adjusted operating profit rose 15 percent to $940 million due to higher revenue. "Expenses were flat in the quarter as higher programming costs were offset by lower marketing expenses and the reversal of an accrued contingency," the company said. Programming costs grew 5 percent primarily due to higher costs related to the NCAA tournament.  

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