Time (TIME) CEO Rich Battista is asking for -- yes, you guessed it -- some time.
The owner of People, Fortune, InStyle, Sports Illustrated and titles that may be on the chopping block revealed a series of moves Wednesday designed to give its relatively new management team the leeway -- and the money -- to turn around a legacy print publisher that reported its first quarterly loss in a year.
Battista on Wednesday attributed the loss of 18 cents per share for the first quarter to advertiser reluctance to strike deals with Time while the company was considering buyout offers. (Analysts had estimated a 15-cent loss.) On April 28, Time's board of directors called off a sale process spurred by interest from potential acquirers on the assumption that Battista's team can generate greater shareholder value as a standalone operation than as a part of another company such as longtime stalker Meredith (MDP - Get Report) .
Toward that end, Time cut its dividend to 4 cents from 19 cents as Battista told investors on a conference call that the company will sell some noncore assets. Battista told TheStreet those sales could include any of Time's titles or its various businesses such as a books division and an assortment of marketing and advertising groups.
"The reasoning here is to enhance our strategic and financial flexibility," Battista said. "This is really about being smart about how we maintain a strong balance sheet and allowing us the monies to invest going forward."
Investors greeted Time's announcements and first-quarter results unsympathetically, driving shares down 14.7% to $12.88 by early afternoon. In the nearly two weeks since Time ended sale talks, its shares have lost 29.3%.
Time also said Wednesday it will no longer offer investors quarterly revenue projections, a departure from past practices that added to investor angst.
Taken together, the dividend cut and the impending asset sales are aimed at allowing Battista's management group -- he was promoted in September -- to remake a company that Time Warner (TWX) spun off in 2014 as part of its own effort to focus on its core operations of television and film.
Some of Time's newer investments include a digital video platform; People/Entertainment Weekly Network, which runs shows such as BingeWorthy, a playful look at everyday obsessions; and new digital platforms that have little to do with its flagship publications. One such example is breakfast/brunch website Extra Crispy.
Yet plans for future growth take time to play out, and Time remains a company that gets about one-third of its revenue from print advertising, which has been in a secular decline for more than 10 years. Print ad sales fell an arresting 21% in the quarter year over year to $212 million, though digital operations did post a 32% increase to $119 million. Circulation revenue -- both print and digital -- fell 14% to $205 million.
Overall, Time's revenue of $636 million fell short of the $642 million projected by analysts.
As part of its effort to reshape the company, independent board director John Fahey will be elevated to nonexecutive chairman, and Dan Rosensweig, a former operations chief at Yahoo! (YHOO) , has been tapped as a new director. Executive Chairman Joe Ripp, who preceded Battista as CEO, will be leaving the board along with longtime director Howard Stringer. The moves will be effective after the June 29 annual shareholder meeting.
Battista asked that shareholders take a longer view on Time.
"This is a company that's going to be one of the real winners in the new digital ecosystem, and you should be patient and stay with this company," he said. "We believe we have a tremendous mix of assets that position us extremely well to succeed, and now we have the right operating plan to leverage that opportunity."