As RBR+TVBR‘s daily newsletter was being finalized, iHeartMedia CEO Bob Pittman and CFO Rich Bressler were delivering the company’s fourth quarter 2019 results.
It is the first for the company post-bankruptcy, making comps a tad difficult.
What is certain is that iHeart’s year-over-year revenue is flat.
And, mid-single-digit growth anticipated in Q1 2020 — thanks to political dollars — is expected to drive EBITDA growth in the high single-digit range, Bressler notes.
And, Bressler believes iHeart’s leverage is “well on its way” toward 4x.
On Dec. 31, 2019, net debt to adjusted EBITDA stood at 5.4x.
Thursday’s trading saw IHRT slide 6.1% to $14.96 and Pittman defending iHeart’s U.S.-only footprint as a reason for investors to not fret about coronavirus, as the company believes its potential fiscal harm from a potential pandemic is not significant.
BEHIND THE NUMBERS
Revenue in Q4 2019 came in at $1.0261 billion, compared to $1.0263 in Q4 2018.
Audio revenue excluding political was $951.69 million, rising from $912.11 million.
Then, there is “audio and media services revenue,” and that was up to $62.75 million from $60 million, ex-political.
While podcasting took up much of the discussion on the Q4 earnings call, the bulk of iHeart revenue still comes from its AM and FM radio stations. Thus, a 2.7% revenue decline to $611.79 million from $628.49 million is noteworthy.
Overall, operating income was $165.12 million, down from $259.95 million.
And, adjusted EBITDA was flat — finishing at $306.14 million from $308.09 million.
The company’s earnings call featured a Q&A session that saw veteran analyst Jessica Reif Ehrlich (pictured, at right), criticize Bressler and Pittman for not having distributed the company’s quarterly results until minutes before the call’s 4:30pm Eastern start. Bressler apologized, saying the delay was due to an unspecified technical glitch.
She also asked about the well-publicized programming and air talent staff reduction seen during Q1 2020 across iHeartRadio; it was explained, as the company previously stated, that the job cuts were carefully considered but part of a plan designed to help trim its still massive debt.
As of Dec. 31, 2019, net debt stood at $5.365 billion.
Another analyst asked about iHeartRadio’s air personalities and localism. Pittman responded that, as far as the listener knows, all of its air talent — including its syndicated voices and those voicetracked across multiple markets — are local.
In West Palm Beach, this sees air talent based at iHeart’s Miami-Fort Lauderdale operations center conduct live-and-local shows for WLDI-FM “Wild 95.5,” the company’s CHR/Pop station serving the market. It is believed that no live air talent for Wild 95.5 is using a West Palm Beach studio at this time.
So … how was iHeart’s net income? The successor company (post-bankruptcy) iHeart saw net income in Q4 of $61.38 million. The predecessor company saw $214.91 million; the figures are not comparable.
This is where adjusted EBITDA is key to understand where iHeart was in the last three months of 2019.