Time cuts dividend, unveils board shakeup as losses widen

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Time Inc cut its dividend and announced a board shakeup as the magazine publisher reported a steeper first-quarter net loss and revenue decline than expected.

Shares tumbled 8 per cent in pre-market trading on the news.

The owner of Time, People and Sports Illustrated is in the midst of a strategic reorganisation aimed at shifting its business from print to digital, following its decision last month not to sell itself.

Its net loss widened to $28m, or 29 cents a share, from with a loss of $10m, or 10 cents a share, in the first quarter of 2016. Excluding some items including severance and restructuring costs, adjusted losses of 18 cents a share were worse than the 15 cents loss analysts forecast.”

Revenue fell 8 per cent to $636m from $690m a year ago, below estimates of $642m. Advertising sales fell 8 per cent to $331m on a 21 per cent dropoff in print ad revenue. Digital ad sales rose 32 per cent, mainly due to acquisitions. Circulation revenue dropped 14 per cent.

The company reduced expenses by 7 per cent to $615m, but it also booked $16m in restructuring and severance costs.

Time Inc said it would no longer provide quarterly or annual revenue guidance. The company previously said it expects 2017 revenue to dip to $3bn, its sixth straight year of decline.

The publisher cut its quarterly dividend to 4 cents from 19 cents, in an attempt to strengthen its balance sheet and reduce leverage. It carries $1.2bn in long-term debt, dating back to its spin-off from Time Warner nearly three years ago.

“The objective is to provide us with strategic and financial flexibility in order to better focus on investing in growth and at the same time maintaining a strong balance sheet,” the company said.

Time also announced changes to its board of directors. Joe Ripp, who previously served as chief executive, is retiring as executive chairman, and Sir Howard Stringer, the former chair and chief executive of Sony, is leaving the board.

The board has elected John Fahey, its current lead independent director, who formerly ran the National Geographic Society, to the position of non-executive chairman. In addition, Dan Rosensweig, the former chief operating officer of Yahoo and current CEO of Chegg, an online learning platform, has been nominated to the board. Shareholders will vote on the board’s composition at Time Inc’s annual meeting.

Last month Time Inc said it would remain independent, ending months of speculation over its future. Despite drawing interest from suitors including Meredith, the publisher of Better Homes and Gardens and Martha Stewart Living, Time Inc’s board decided to stick with a strategic plan focused on digital growth, new revenue sources and cost-cutting measures. That could include the sale of some titles.

The company has said it will increase revenues through investments in native advertising and video and by selling products and services to its 30m subscribers.

“In the first quarter of 2017, we made important progress on our strategic plan despite continuing challenges with print advertising revenues. We are taking strategic actions and focusing on key initiatives to put the Company on the right course for the future,” said Rich Battista, chief executive.

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