Meredith Corporation ( MDP)

F2Q11 Earnings Call

January 25, 2011 11:00 p.m. ET

Executives

Steve Lacy – Chairman, President and CEO

Joe Ceryanec – VP and CFO

Paul Karpowicz – President, Local Media Group

Tom Harty – President, National Media Group

Analysts

William Byrd - [L-com]

Jared Schram – Roth Capital Partners

Jason Bazinet – Citigroup

Michael Meltz – JPMorgan

Edward Atorino – The Benchmark Company

Michael Corty – Morningstar

Barry Lucas – Gabelli & Co

Presentation

Operator

Welcome to the Meredith Corporation reports fiscal 2011 second quarter results. [Operator Instructions.] I would now like to turn the conference over to Mike Lovell. Please go ahead sir.

Mike Lovell

Good morning and thanks everyone for joining us. We’ll begin the call this morning with comments from our chairman and chief executive officer Steve Lacy and our chief financial officer, Joe Ceryanec. Then we’ll turn the call over to questions. Also on the line this morning are Paul Karpowicz, president of our local media group, and Tom Harty, president of our national media group.

An archive of today’s discussion will be available later this afternoon on our investor website and a transcript will follow.

Let me remind you that our remarks today include forward-looking statements and that actual results may differ from forecasts. Some of the reasons why are described at the end of our press release issued earlier this morning and in some of our SEC filings.

And with that, Steve will begin the presentation.

Steve Lacy

Thank you Mike, and good morning everyone and once again, thank you for joining us. I'm pleased to report fiscal 2011 second quarter earnings per share of $0.88, a record high for Meredith in the second fiscal quarter. A year ago, our earnings per share were $0.49 before special items.

We also delivered record results for the fiscal first half, with earnings per share of $1.45, up over 75% compared to last year's first half. Our very strong second quarter performance was driven by total revenue growth of 9% across the company, along with continued strong expense management. These efforts produced an operating margin of 19%.

Of particular note during the second quarter of fiscal '11, we delivered a 14% increase in total company ad revenue, 30% growth in local media group advertising revenue including $22 million in net political advertising. We delivered 5% growth in national media group ad revenue, including more than 30% growth in digital revenue across our national websites.

Meredith Integrated Marketing delivered 14% growth in revenue, led by expansion of digital and customer relationship management services for our national clients. We achieved more than 35% growth in brand licensing revenue, driven by continued expansion of Better Homes & Gardens branded products at Walmart.

Finally, we've continued our track record of very disciplined expense management as operating expenses declined 1%. Over a two-year period, we've lowered operating expenses by 9%.

Stepping back for a moment, I'd like to provide some perspective on calendar 2010 and the early calendar 2011 advertising environment. Total company advertising revenues as measured over calendar 2010 grew 9% compared to the prior year, reflecting our aggressive efforts to drive revenue growth along with a broader industry rebound following what was a very difficult calendar 2009.

Political advertising in our local media group accounting for about half of our growth as we delivered a record $39 million in total net political ad revenue as measured over calendar 2010. The other half of our revenue growth came from our core brands and businesses including magazine, television, nonpolitical and digital advertising. All increased over calendar 2009.

While we delivered advertising growth across the board in calendar 2010, it wasn't sequential, and we experienced significant marketplace volatility period to period. For example, local nonpolitical advertising ranged from up 16% in the first calendar quarter, to up 3% in the fourth. National media group advertising posted year-over-year growth in six months of calendar 2010 and declined in the other six months, with its best month up 9% and its worst down 6%.

We expect that period-to-period volatility to continue in calendar 2011 as well. Persistent high unemployment, rising commodity prices, and a still-uncertain national economic outlook make forecasting calendar 2011 advertising demand very difficult at this point in time.

Industry data we've seen suggests calendar 2010 advertising is off to a slow start. Min Box Score data for the women's service and lifestyle sector show a mid-single-digit decline in ad pages in early calendar 2011.

Additionally, as I just mentioned, we face difficult year-ago comparisons in the first quarter of calendar '10, where last year the local media group nonpolitical advertising was up 16% and the national media group advertising was up 4%. But as I've said many times in the past, we manage this business to produce sustained long-term growth.

To that end, we're encouraged by the latest industry forecasts, which call for magazine, local television, and digital advertising growth as we look ahead over the next four-year time period. As many of you are aware, we have a proven track record here at Meredith of outperforming our industries over time as well.

As stated in our news release issued earlier this morning, we continue to expect fiscal 2011 full-year earnings per share to range from $2.60 to $2.80, which would represent an increase of between 15% and 25% over fiscal 2010 results.

Additionally, our ongoing commitment to develop new revenue sources continues to yield results, particularly in custom marketing and brand licensing. Demand for Meredith integrated marketing services is growing, fueled by our very competitive combination of direct marketing and digital capabilities. And we continue to be very pleased with the enthusiastic consumer response to our branded products at retail.

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