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New York - Time Warner, owner of the HBO cable network and Warner Bros. film studio, reported fourth- quarter profit that topped analysts’ estimates on gains in fees paid by satellite and cable companies.
Net income climbed 51 percent to $1.17 billion, or $1.21 cents a share, from $773 million, or 76 cents, a year earlier, the company said today in a statement.
Leaving out some items, earnings were $1.17 a share, compared with the average analyst estimate of $1.10, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
The company also said it would buy back as much as $4 billion in stock and raised its quarterly dividend by 11 percent.
Chief Executive Officer Jeffrey Bewkes is concentrating the company’s growth strategy on its TV business, which fuels more than 60 percent of Time Warner’s annual sales.
Bewkes fostered the development of costly shows, such as HBO’s “Game of Thrones,” and signed rights deals for major sports programming, including the NCAA basketball tournament, to command higher fees from pay-TV providers such as Comcast Corp. and DirecTV.
Time Warner rose 4 percent to $51.94 in premarket trading after the announcement. Through yesterday, the stock had climbed 4.5 percent this year.
The New York-based company boosted its dividend to almost 29 cents a share, up from 26 cents.
The payout will be made on March 15, to shareholders of record at the close on February 28.
The $4 billion buyback program, meanwhile, began in January.
Time Warner repurchased $3.3 billion in stock last year.
Subscription revenue for Time Warner’s television networks rose 7 percent last quarter.
TV advertising climbed at a slower pace, at 3 percent.
Ratings at the company’s cable networks, which include CNN, TNT and TBS, slid 6 percent in the quarter, according to Anthony J. DiClemente, a media analyst with Barclays Research in New York.
He has the equivalent of a neutral rating on the shares.
For 2013, Time Warner expects earnings to grow in the “low double digits” from $3.28 a share in 2012.
That includes the effect of a $60 million restructuring at Time Inc., the company’s magazine division.
The 60-year-old Bewkes, who recently renewed his employment agreement through 2017, reshuffled the company’s executive lineup in the past year to shape up underperforming divisions.
He appointed former advertising executive Laura Lang to manage Time Inc., which has been the company’s slowest-growing business.
She recently eliminated 500 jobs, or 6 percent of its workforce, to better manage costs amid declining ad sales.
Publishing sales 7 percent to $967 million in the fourth quarter, Time Warner said. - Bloomberg