Time Warner Inc (TWX) Q2 Earnings Preview 2013: Profits Fly High With ‘Man Of Steel’ Muscle And CNN Ratings Rebound

TWX People walk in front of the Time Warner Inc. headquarters building at Columbus Circle in New York.  Reuters/STR New

Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX) is expected to report higher second-quarter earnings Wednesday amid a ratings rebound for CNN and a busy summer blockbuster season that included the Superman reboot “Man of Steel.”

The New York-based media company is expected to show net income of $717.9 million, or 76 cents per share, up 28.6 percent from $576 million, or 59 cents a share, for the same period last year. Analysts polled by Thomson Reuters expect revenue to rise 5.4 percent to $7.1 billion, up from $6.74 billion for the three-month period that ended June 30. Time Warner reports Q2 2013 earnings on Wednesday at 10:30 a.m. EDT.

As part of a wider trend in which media companies are shedding their publishing divisions, Time Warner announced in March that it is spinning off Time Inc., its magazine business, into a separate publicly traded company. Analysts say the move will allow Time Warner to focus on its more profitable media businesses, in particular its television segment.

“With the planned spinoff of the publishing unit by the end of 2013, Time Warner will generate about 90 percent of operating profit from the television business,” said Michael Corty, an analyst with Morningstar, in a July research note.

Last month, Time Warner announced that Joseph Ripp, a former Time Warner executive who held several high-ranking positions at the company, will take over as CEO of Time Inc. once the separation is complete. Like most magazine publishers, Time Inc. is struggling, and this quarter is expected to be no exception. Analysts Marci Ryvicker, Eric Katz and Stephan Bisson at Wells Fargo Securities expect revenue for the segment to fall 2.5 percent, to $837 million, compared to the same period last year. Operating income is expected to fall 2.6 percent to $94 million.

“With the spinoff of Time Inc. looming, we believe the company will remain focused on cost controls to help partially offset the deterioration in revenue,” the analysts wrote in a July research note.

Despite the ongoing publishing drag, Time Warner’s portfolio of cable networks, which currently generates an estimated 70 percent of its overall cash flow, continues to be a boon for the company. Ratings were up in the low single digits at TNT and TBS, the largest contributors to Time Warner’s ad revenue, as well as the subscriber-supported HBO.

The biggest comeback story, however, was CNN. Under the guidance of its new president, Jeff Zucker, and buoyed by major news events such as the Boston Marathon bombings, the seminal cable news network saw its ratings increase 71 percent compared to the same period last year, when it was in the midst of 21-year low. Analysts at Wells Fargo estimate that Time Warner’s overall domestic cable ad revenue grew 9.4 percent in the second quarter, the highest percentage growth of any large media company.

With four major summer movie releases during the quarter, Time Warner’s filmed entertainment segment is expected to show double-digit growth in theatrical revenue. The company rebooted the Superman franchise with “Man of Steel,” a more successful effort than its 2006 predecessor, “Superman Returns.” Released two weeks before the end of the quarter, the Zack Snyder-directed reboot has so far taken in a worldwide gross of $644 million on a $225 million production budget, making it the third highest-grossing movie of the year to date.

In all, filmed entertainment is expected to see revenue rise 5.1 percent to $2.48 billion. Operating income for the segment is expected to rise 12.3 percent to $154 million. Admittedly, the segment had easy comparisons to Q2 2012, which saw disappointing box-office results for Tim Burton’s “Dark Shadows” and the 1980s-set musical “Rock of Ages.”

Out of 31 analysts polled by Thomson Reuters, 16 rated Time Warner stock Buy. Another six rated it Strong Buy and nine more rated it Hold.

Time Warner shares traded at around $64.47 in early trading, up 0.28 percent.

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