Meredith Corporation (MDP)

Q2 2010 Earnings Call

July 29, 2010 11:00 am ET

Executives

Mike Lovell - Director of IR

Steve Lacy - CEO

Joe Ceryanec - CFO

Jack Griffin - President, Publishing Group

Paul Karpowicz - President, Broadcasting Group

Analysts

Michael Meltz - JPMorgan

Jason Bazinet - Citigroup

Peter Stabler - Credit Suisse

Barry Lucas - Gabelli & Co.

Edward Atorino - The Benchmark Company

Presentation

Operator

Good morning ladies and gentlemen and thank you for standing by. Welcome to the Meredith Corporation reports fiscal 2010 fourth quarter and full year results conference call. (Operator Instructions) As a reminder, this conference is being recorded today, the 29 th of July, 2010.

I would now like to hand the conference over to our host Mr. Mike Lovell. Please go ahead sir.

Mike Lovell

Hi good morning everyone and thanks for joining us. We'll begin the call this morning with comments from our Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Steve Lacey, as well as our Chief Financial Officer Joe Ceryanec, then we'll turn the call over to questions. Also on the line this morning are Jack Griffin, President of our National Media Group and Paul Karpowicz, President of our Local Media Group.

An archive of today's discussion will be available later this afternoon on our industrial website and a transcript will follow that. Let me remind you that our remarks today include forward looking statements and that actual results may differ from our forecasts. Couple of the reasons why are described at the end of our press release issued earlier today and in some of our SEC filings.

With that, Steve will begin the presentation.

Steve Lacy

Good morning everyone. I'm pleased to report that fiscal 2010 marked the return to earnings growth for the Meredith Corporation. As detailed in today's earnings release, we increased earnings per share by 10% for the year before special items highlighted by a 27% growth in earnings per share in the fourth quarter.

Total company revenues were approximately flat with the prior year, even with about $15 million less in net political advertising revenue. Total company operating expenses declined 3% before special items and we reduced our debts by 20%.

At the same, we continue to invest in new media platforms including mobile and e-Tablet. Additionally, we increased our dividend to shareholders for the 17 th consecutive year. Given the weak climate, I'm both proud and encouraged by our performance. Central to our strong results, more performance improvement initiatives put in place in fiscal 2008, when the early signs of the economic downturn appeared and expanded upon in both fiscal 2009 and 2010.

We've established a strategic plan called Vision 2013. It's a detailed road map designed to position Meredith for both near and longer term growth. I'd like to take a moment to provide a quick overview. I think it's crucial to understanding why we believe Meredith is uniquely positioned to prosper and grow in an evolving competitive media market place.

At its core, Vision 2013 contains fixed key strategies. I'll briefly highlight each noting progress achieved during our fiscal 2010. First of all to exploit the economic recovery, this strategy revolves around the beliefs that gaining market share should be a primary focus during the time of economic weakness.

Over the last two years, we've increased our share of magazine advertising revenue by nearly three full percentage points to 12.3%. That represents the highest share in our history. Our television stations outperformed the industry as well.

Secondly to optimize our core businesses. We've made significant progress against reengineering initiatives inside both our national and our local media groups, including content creation sales and consumer marketing. These initiatives resulted in efficiencies and improved products as well as cost savings overtime.

Third, to expand our digital businesses. We enhanced the online consumer experience and have taken steps to better monetize our growing online traffic leading to an 11% increase in online advertising revenue in our fiscal 2010. We launched mobile platforms for three key brands, better homes and gardens, parents and fitness and just completed the acquisition of the hyper factory, one of the world's leading mobile marketing company. At the same time, we joined publishing and broadcasting industry consortium to further develop the mobile and e-Tablets platforms for consumers and advertisers alike.

Fourth, to significantly grow Meredith's integrated marketing. In the last four years, we've doubled revenues and acquired six firms to provide sought after expertise in digital, Vierl, social, mobile, healthcare along with database marketing. In fiscal 2010, these new services helped to partially offset market driven weakness in core customer publishing activities.

Fifth, to enhance and extend our key brands. We built better homes and gardens into one of the most successful media brands in the industry. Among our many licensing relationships, I'll single out our ongoing program with Wal-Mart, where we doubled the number of SKU's over the prior year to approximately 2,000.

And finally, to build shareholder value overtime. While we obviously have no direct control over our share size, we're pleased to see it increase 25% during fiscal 2010 and in an environment where many media companies are slashing or eliminating dividend. We increased our dividend again in January of '10.

We clearly have improved our competitive position across the business. However, while fiscal 2010 was a better year for Meredith in most respects, I should note that our performance as it relates to advertising, is still below the historic ties we reached before the recession. The market place remains volatile both month-to-month and across our client base.

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