Sale? Nielsen Business Media Aflame With Earnings Down 28%

But CFO Brian West says that “iconic” titles like the Hollywood Reporter should be kept.

Last Updated: November 17, 2009 @ 10:12 AM

Whither the Hollywood Reporter?

Nielsen reported precipitous drops in earnings in its business media unit Thursday, but seemed to offer support for its entertainment titles — which Waxword reported earlier this week were ready to be sold to James Finkelstein’s News Communications, Inc.

Let’s figure this out together.

Nielsen earnings for the third quarter were down 1 percent over last year, at $1.25 billion.

But the Business Media division was down 28 percent over last year — and publications within that division, which includes the Reporter, Billboard, Adweek and Mediaweek — were down 33 percent.

That’s because its advertising was down a whopping 54 percent. (Trade shows, the other piece in that division, was down 20 percent.)

Still, CFO Brian West seemed to suggest that Nielsen might want to keep the "iconic" titles that would have value once the recession and advertising bloodbath was over.

"For our prime, core, iconic brands – Billboard, THR, etc. — where those brands are very strong in their class, that have online capability, the opportunity to go right at the consumer, and there is a trade show element — those are the ones we’ll continue to work through this cycle because those brands, once this turns around, those are going to win — largely by the brand itself."

Confusion reigns. On the very same call, West was asked about "rumors" of a sale of some assets. And to that question, he said rather the opposite:

"For assets that don’t hit the mark, we’re always looking to work them out of the portfolio — and we’ve done that in last year and a half," he said. "We’re always making sure to see we have a robust portfolio."

Neither Nielsen nor News Communications have responded to repeated requests for comment on the Waxword report that the Reporter, Billboard and several other entertainment titles were set to be sold.

Byrne told Waxword only that he would neither confirm nor deny the report.

The Business Media division, whose entertainment segment is run by Gerry Byrne, has been struggling and undergone serial cuts in staffing.

Here’s the press release of full earnings:

The Nielsen Company B.V., a leading global information and media company, today announced its financial results for the three and nine months ended September 30, 2009.

Reported revenues for the three months ended September 30, 2009, were $1,250 million, a decrease of 1 percent over reported revenues for the three months ended September 30, 2008, of $1,260 million. Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, revenues for the three months increased 3 percent.

Reported revenues for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, were $3,610 million, a decrease of 4 percent over reported revenues for the nine months ended September 30, 2008, of $3,778 million. Excluding the impact of currency fluctuations, revenues for the nine months increased 2 percent.

Reported operating loss for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, was $100 million compared to operating income of $408 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2008.

The 2009 results included a non-cash charge related to the impairment of goodwill and intangible assets of $582 million as well as $9 million of charges relating to restructuring costs.

The 2008 results included $62 million of charges relating to restructuring costs. Adjusting for these items, operating income, on a constant currency basis*, increased 12 percent.

Covenant earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization and other adjustments permitted under our senior secured credit facilities (“Covenant EBITDA”) was $1,311 million for the 12-month period ended September 30, 2009. Covenant EBITDA is a non-GAAP measure. See “Covenant EBITDA” below for a reconciliation of Loss from continuing operations of $1,028 million for the twelve months ended September 30, 2009, to Covenant EBITDA.

As of September 30, 2009, total debt was $8,745 million, and cash balances were $409 million. Capital expenditures were $204 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2009, compared with $253 million for the nine months ended September 30, 2008.