Time Inc. to Sell Assets Amid Push to Move Beyond MagazinesBy
Publisher will sell smaller, ‘non core’ assets in portfolio
Investor demands details of strategic plan on earnings call
Time Inc. is planning to sell some magazines or other properties as the struggling publisher tries to push ahead with a digital strategy and move past months of talks with potential acquirers.
The owner of Sports Illustrated and People will look to offload “relatively smaller” titles in its portfolio and other “non-core” assets, Chief Executive Officer Rich Battista said Wednesday on a conference call. He didn’t name the assets.
Battista added that Time is open to joint ventures with other companies and interested in an outside investor who could provide capital “for a particular opportunity.”
Last month, Time announced that it was sticking with its online strategy rather than sell itself after months of negotiations with potential suitors, including Meredith Corp. and a group including Pamplona Capital Management and Jahm Najafi. New York-based Time was said to be holding out for more than $20 a share.
The shares slumped as much as 19 percent to $12.20 on Wednesday. The magazine publisher reported first-quarter revenue of $636 million, missing the $642 million average of analysts’ estimates. Its net loss widened as print advertising sales declined 21 percent. It also cut its dividend. Like other magazine publishers, Time is struggling to transform itself as print advertising dries up and the lion’s share of digital advertising dollars goes to Facebook Inc. and Google.
The magazine owner has spent months restructuring its business and replacing senior management, hoping to persuade advertisers to pour money into its magazine titles. This fall, Time plans to introduce a Sports Illustrated online video service with documentaries and insights from the magazine’s reporters, part of its growing push into video. Some of Time’s smaller titles include Sunset magazine and What’s On TV, which is based in the U.K.
On an earnings conference, one of its investors demanded more detail about Time’s strategic plan.
“You constantly refer to this strategic plan, but you provide no numbers for the shareholders to basically grasp what this company will look like in two or three years,” said Leon Cooperman, of Omega Advisors Inc., which owns 3.9 percent of the magazine publisher, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.
“I think it’s incumbent upon the company to share with the shareholders, the people that have the money invested, what the strategic plan would yield,” Cooperman said. “Because I’m pretty confident that this company can be sold today at at least $18 a share.”
Cooperman urged the company to hold an analyst day and reveal its strategic plan in more detail. “Then we can make an intelligent decision whether we should agitate for a sale or be patient and give you guys a chance to do your magic,” he said.
Battista replied that Time hired an adviser to cut costs and believes it can reach $1 billion in digital revenue, but did not provide a timeline. In an interview, Battista said the company would provide some profit guidance going forward and “other insights when appropriate.”
“We feel really excited and confident in our plan,” Battista said.