Time Warner profit up on ad recovery, cable

By Yinka Adegoke

NEW YORK (BestGrowthStock) – Time Warner Inc posted a better-than-expected quarterly profit on Wednesday on a rebound in advertising sales at its cable networks and magazines, as well as strong DVD sales of “The Blind Side” and “Sherlock Holmes.”

Shares of the media conglomerate rose 1.8 percent in premarket trading, after it reported a 9 percent increase in advertising sales at the networks from a year earlier. The results were also helped by higher fees that cable operators pay Time Warner to carry cable channels such as CNN and TNT.

“The numbers were impressive. The networks are going to surprise people,” said Thomas Eagan, analyst at Collins Stewart.

The future of CNN has been the subject of speculation in recent months as it has lost ground to News Corp’s Fox News, which is the most watched news network on U.S. cable television.

But Eagan said CNN had held its ground in financial terms for Time Warner. “The concerns about a ratings decline at CNN were overdone because we always thought they could hold their advertising rate,” he said.

First-quarter net income rose to $725 million, or 62 cents a share, up from $467 million, or 39 cents a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, earnings of 61 cents a share beat analysts average forecasts of 48 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Revenue was up 5 percent to $6.3 billion.

The better-than-expected performance encouraged Time Warner to raise its 2010 outlook slightly. It expects full-year profit excluding items to grow by “at least mid-teens” percentage points. Previously, it had forecast profit to grow by around mid-teens percentage points.

Time Warner investor Larry Haverty of Gabelli & Co said the results were “terrific” and said he was impressed with Time Warner’s high conversion of revenue to cash flow across the business.

Shares in Time Warner have risen by more than 12 percent since the start of the year along with other major media stocks as investors have priced in an ad recovery after a severe downturn in 2009.

Haverty was cautious about further upside in media stocks in the current market environment.

“Six months ago I thought the stock was undervalued but none of the media companies are paragons of enormous value right now,” said Haverty who also holds News Corp which posted better-than-expected earnings on Tuesday.

Revenue increased just 2 percent at Warner Bros, the filmed entertainment unit, mainly due to DVD sales and the theatrical release of “Valentine’s Day.”

Time Warner is one of the lead bidders in an ongoing auction for storied Hollywood studio MGM, which is home to movie franchises like James Bond and Pink Panther.

Time Inc, the largest U.S. magazine publisher, reported a 5 percent improvement in ad sales.

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(Reporting by Yinka Adegoke; Editing by Derek Caney)

Time Warner profit up on ad recovery, cable