National Media Group Advertising Revenues Exceeded Expectations in 4th Quarter; Trends Remain Strong
Meredith Corporation – the leading media and marketing company with national brands serving 115 million unduplicated American women, including nearly 90 percent of U.S. millennial women; 150 million digital monthly unique visitors; a paid subscription base of 42 million; and 30 million viewers via 17 local television stations in fast-growing markets – today reported fiscal 2019 fourth quarter and full year results.
“Our National Media Group delivered improved comparable advertising performance in every quarter of fiscal 2019, and our Local Media Group achieved another year of record performance,” said Meredith Corporation President and Chief Executive Officer Tom Harty. “Of particular note, our television station group recorded an all-time high of $103 million of political advertising revenues, along with continued double-digit growth in retransmission revenue.
“Additionally, we made significant progress in fiscal 2019 executing on our plan to strategically integrate the assets acquired from Time Inc. and assemble the best portfolio of national media brands in the industry,” Harty continued. “We focused on implementing Meredith’s proven strategies and disciplined approach across our portfolio, which drove growth in total comparable National Media Group advertising revenues in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019 including double-digit growth in digital advertising revenues and growth in print advertising revenues at the legacy Time Inc. titles. While it has taken longer than we initially expected to elevate the print and digital performance of the Time Inc. assets, we remain confident in the long-term vision and potential of the National Media Group brand portfolio.
“Finally, we continued Meredith’s long-term commitment to returning cash to shareholders by increasing our dividend by 5.5 percent. This represents a current dividend yield of 5.2 percent, which is more than double the average of the S&P 500. We accomplished this while still strengthening our balance sheet by paying down $825 million of debt,” Harty concluded.
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Looking more closely at fiscal 2019 full-year results compared to the prior year:
- Total Company revenues from continuing operations were up more than 40 percent to a record $3.2 billion.
- Total Company advertising related and consumer related revenues recorded double-digit growth.
- Earnings from continuing operations, which includes special items in both periods, were $129 million, compared to $114 million. Meredith recorded $94 million of net after-tax special items in fiscal 2019, primarily related to restructuring and integration costs related to the Time Inc. acquisition, and a non-cash impairment charge related to certain trademarks. Earnings per share from continuing operations were $1.12 compared to $1.79.
- Earnings from continuing operations before special items increased 51 percent to $223 million, compared to $148 million, and increased on a per share basis to $3.19 from $2.54. (See Tables 1-3 for supplemental disclosures regarding non-GAAP financial measures.)
- Adjusted EBITDA was $706 million compared to $423 million. Adjusted earnings per share increased to $7.24 from $4.67.
Looking more closely at fiscal 2019 fourth quarter results compared to the prior-year period:
- Total Company revenues from continuing operations were $786 million, compared to $799 million.
- Loss from continuing operations was $4 million, or $0.51 per share, including $62 million of net after-tax special items, primarily related to restructuring and integration costs, and a non-cash impairment charge related to certain trademarks. This compares to fiscal 2018 fourth quarter earnings from continuing operations of $17 million, or a loss of $0.06 per share, which included $14 million of net after-tax special items.
- Excluding special items in both periods, earnings from continuing operations were $58 million compared to $31 million, and increased on a per share basis to $0.85 from $0.25.
- Adjusted EBITDA grew 6 percent to $169 million compared to $160 million. Adjusted earnings per share increased to $1.79 from $1.31.
Looking ahead to fiscal 2020:
- Meredith expects to deliver an additional $135 million in cost synergies, which would bring the cumulative total to $565 million by the end of fiscal 2020.
- In its Local Media Group, Meredith will be cycling against a record $103 million of political advertising revenues generated in fiscal 2019, partially offset by stronger results from retransmission consent fees.
- In its National Media Group, Meredith expects:
- Print advertising revenue to return to its historical performance levels, which equates to mid-single digit declines.
- Digital advertising revenue to increase in the mid-single digits.
- Strategic investments in its growing digital advertising and consumer related activities to drive continued revenue and profit growth over the long-term.
- Higher production and distribution expenses, including postal rates.
- Lower contribution from consumer related revenues due primarily to the number of low-margin magazine subscriptions inside the legacy Time Inc. brands. Meredith is in the process of transitioning these to more profitable sources, which will take time as the opportunity for margin improvement happens when subscriptions renew.
“Without a doubt, the Time Inc. acquisition has dramatically improved our competitive position in the marketplace, lifting Meredith from the #4 player to #1,” said Harty. “That said, we begin fiscal 2020 at a lower profit point than originally expected. In addition, we are planning strategic investments to further strengthen our performance and maximize shareholder value over time. Both of these factors contribute to a reset of our financial expectations in the outlook we’re providing.”
NATIONAL MEDIA GROUP DETAIL
Fiscal 2019 National Media Group operating profit increased nearly 50 percent to $126 million. Excluding special items, operating profit was $230 million and adjusted EBITDA was $456 million. Revenues were $2.3 billion. Results exclude discontinued operations (TIME, FORTUNE, Sports Illustrated, FanSided and Viant). (See Tables 1-3 for supplemental disclosures regarding non-GAAP financial measures.)
Fiscal 2019 fourth quarter National Media Group operating profit was $6 million. Excluding special items, operating profit grew 17 percent to $63 million, adjusted EBITDA was $115 million, and revenues were $588 million.
In fiscal 2019, Meredith’s National Media Group continued its aggressive plan to strategically integrate the brands and businesses acquired from Time Inc., including:
- Improving the print advertising performance of the acquired Time Inc. properties to Meredith’s historical levels. Meredith has implemented its proven strategies, standards and discipline across the legacy Time Inc. portfolio to improve performance, including aligning it with Meredith’s successful sales structure. While comparable advertising performance lagged Meredith’s expectations in the first half of fiscal 2019, it met expectations in the second half, including low-single digit print advertising revenue growth at the legacy Time Inc. titles in the fourth quarter.
- Growing revenue and raising the profit margins of the acquired Time Inc. digital properties. Meredith is leveraging the increased scale of its combined digital portfolio to enhance sales initiatives. Digital advertising revenue accounted for 34 percent of total National Media Group advertising revenues in fiscal 2019. Similar to print, digital advertising performance lagged Meredith’s expectations in the first half of fiscal 2019. However, it met expectations in the second half, including delivering mid-single digit advertising revenue growth on a reported basis and low double digit growth on a comparable basis in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019.
- Growing high-margin consumer related revenues by leveraging its expanded brand portfolio. Consumer related revenues accounted for more than 45 percent of total National Media Group revenues in fiscal 2019. Of note, Meredith is the leading participant in the recently launched Apple News+, a new subscription service that offers 30 Meredith magazines in an innovative, convenient and curated experience.
- Selling media assets not core to Meredith’s business at attractive multiples. Meredith received $430 million in fiscal 2019 related to the divestiture of the TIME, FORTUNE and Sports Illustrated brands.
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LOCAL MEDIA GROUP DETAIL
Fiscal 2019 Local Media Group operating profit grew nearly 50 percent to $278 million, adjusted EBITDA grew more than 40 percent to $318 million and revenues grew 25 percent to $864 million, compared to the prior year, all records. (See Tables 1-3 for supplemental disclosures regarding non-GAAP financial measures.)
Fiscal 2019 fourth quarter Local Media Group operating profit was $63 million, adjusted EBITDA was $72 million and revenues were $199 million.
Looking more closely at the Local Media Group’s fiscal 2019 full year financial performance compared to the prior year:
- Total advertising related revenues grew nearly 30 percent to $538 million, driven by strong demand for political advertising revenues which were a record $103 million. Meredith stations in the Phoenix, Las Vegas, St. Louis and Kansas City markets were the leading beneficiaries of the surge in political advertising.
- Non-political advertising related revenues grew 9 percent to $435 million. This was driven primarily by a full year of contribution from MNI Targeted Media. Non-political spot advertising revenues were down 3 percent due primarily to political advertising displacement. From a category standpoint, declines in the automotive and restaurants advertising categories were partially offset by growth in the professional services, media and home services advertising categories.
- Consumer related revenues increased more than 15 percent to $317 million due to growth in retransmission fees from cable and satellite television operators. These increases were partially offset by higher payments to affiliated networks.
In fiscal 2019, Meredith’s Local Media Group continued to aggressively execute its strategic initiatives to generate growth in revenue and operating profit, and increase shareholder value over time. These included:
- Increasing its consumer connection – Meredith delivered strong performance during ratings periods throughout fiscal 2019. During the most recent May rating period, Meredith stations in eight of its 12 markets ranked No. 1 or No. 2 from sign-on to sign-off.
- Rapidly growing its digital platforms – Local Media Group digital advertising related revenues rose 74 percent, reflecting a full year of contribution from MNI Targeted Media. In addition, traffic across the Local Media Group’s digital properties grew in the low double digits from the prior year and averaged 19 million unique visitors per month in fiscal 2019.
- Successfully renewing key distribution and network affiliation agreements – During the year, Meredith completed retransmission consent agreements with Cox Communications and Comcast Corp., as well as network affiliation renewals for all of its FOX-affiliated stations (Portland, Las Vegas, Greenville, SC, Mobile and Springfield, MA).
- Innovating and expanding across the television station portfolio – Leveraging assets acquired from the Time Inc. acquisition, Meredith launched a weekly television show based on the strength of the PEOPLE brand. The Local Media Group has committed to launching the show in daily syndication beginning in Fall 2020 with distribution across all 12 of its local television markets, and is actively engaged in discussions with other broadcast television owners to carry the show.
OTHER FINANCIAL INFORMATION
Meredith remains committed to strong capital stewardship and its successful Total Shareholder Return strategy. This includes:
- Return of capital to shareholders through consistent and ongoing dividend increases – Meredith raised its regular dividend by 5.5 percent to $2.30 on an annualized basis in February 2019. This marked the 26th straight year of dividend increases for Meredith and the 72nd consecutive year of dividend payments. Since launching its Total Shareholder Return strategy in October 2011, Meredith has increased its dividend 125 percent.
- Aggressive debt paydown and management of liabilities – Long-term debt was $2.3 billion at June 30, 2019, reflecting repayment of $825 million in fiscal 2019.
- Share repurchases – Meredith’s ongoing share repurchase program has $50 million remaining under current authorizations as of June 30, 2019.
During the fourth quarter of fiscal 2019, Meredith decided to retain the Money brand and therefore removed it from Assets Held for Sale. Results from continuing operations have been adjusted to reflect inclusion of the Money brand in all periods presented. All earnings per share amounts in the text of this release are on a diluted basis per common share. Both basic and diluted earnings per common share can be found in the attached Consolidated Statements of Earnings (Loss). All fiscal 2019 full year and fourth quarter comparisons are against the comparable prior-year period unless otherwise stated.
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FISCAL 2020 OUTLOOK
For full-year fiscal 2020, Meredith expects:
- Total Company revenues to range from $3.0 billion to $3.2 billion.
- Earnings from continuing operations, including non-cash depreciation and amortization of approximately $220 million and net interest expense of approximately $150 million, to range from $197 million to $212 million, and from $2.58 to $2.88 on a per share basis. These amounts do not include special items. Actual results may include special items that have not yet occurred and are difficult to predict with reasonable certainty at this time.
- Adjusted EBITDA to range from $640 million to $675 million, and adjusted earnings per share to range from $5.75 to $6.20. This includes approximately $50 million of planned strategic investments. (See Tables 4-5 for supplemental disclosures.)
- Additionally, Meredith expects to generate approximately $75 million of proceeds from its remaining Assets Held for Sale and intends to use that cash for further debt reduction.
Looking more closely at the first quarter of fiscal 2020, Meredith expects:
- National Media Group revenues to range from $535 million to $565 million.
- Local Media Group revenues to range from $195 million to $200 million.
- Earnings from continuing operations, including non-cash depreciation and amortization of approximately $58 million and net interest expense of approximately $38 million, to range from $20 million to $22 million, and from $0.01 to $0.05 on a per share basis. These amounts do not include special items. Actual results may include special items that have not yet occurred and are difficult to predict with reasonable certainty at this time.
- Adjusted EBITDA to range from $122 million to $127 million, and adjusted earnings per share to range from $0.88 to $0.93. (See Tables 4-5 for supplemental disclosures.)
CONFERENCE CALL WEBCAST
Meredith will host a conference call on September 5, 2019, at 8:30 a.m. EDT to discuss fiscal 2019 fourth quarter and full year results and its outlook for the first quarter and full year of fiscal 2020. A live webcast will be accessible to the public on the Company’s website, and a replay will be available for two weeks. A transcript will be available within 48 hours of the call at meredith.com.
RATIONALE FOR USE AND ACCESS TO NON-GAAP RESULTS
Management uses and presents GAAP and non-GAAP results to evaluate and communicate its performance. Non-GAAP measures should not be construed as alternatives to GAAP measures. Adjusted net earnings per share, adjusted EBITDA, and adjusted EBITDA margin are common supplemental measures of performance used by investors and financial analysts. Management believes that adjusted earnings per share and adjusted EBITDA provides an additional analytical tool to clarify the Company’s results from core operations and delineate underlying trends. Adjusted net earnings per share are defined as net earnings per share from continuing operations before depreciation, amortization and special items. Management has removed these costs as they are deemed to be non-operational in nature. Adjusted EBITDA is defined as earnings from continuing operations before interest, taxes, depreciation, amortization, and special items. Management does not use adjusted EBITDA as a measure of liquidity or funds available for management’s discretionary use because it excludes certain contractual and non-discretionary expenditures.
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