Thomson Reuters beats profit forecast, misses on revenue

(Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp TRI.NTRI.TO beat Wall Street profit expectations in the fourth quarter as it kept a lid on costs, but revenue slightly missed forecasts.

The Thomson Reuters logo is seen inside the lobby of the company building in Times Square, New York October 29, 2013. REUTERS/Carlo Allegri

The news and information company, in its first earnings report since announcing it would sell a majority stake in a unit to Blackstone, reported quarterly revenue of $2.94 billion, up 3 percent.

Net earnings were $591 million, or 81 cents per share, down from $2.24 billion, or $3.03 per share a year earlier.

Adjusted for special items, earnings were 60 cents per share.

Analysts, on average, were looking for profit of 58 cents per share, and revenue of $2.95 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Last week, U.S. private equity firm Blackstone Group LP BX.N announced a $20-billion deal to buy a 55-percent stake in Thomson Reuters' Financial & Risk business, which provides news and analytics to financial services companies. That deal is expected to close in the second half of 2018.

Thomson Reuters said last week it would not provide earnings guidance for 2018 until next quarter.

Thomson Reuters’ shares were 0.3-percent lower at $40.42 on the New York Stock Exchange and down 0.5 percent on the Toronto Stock Exchange.

Despite market volatility and the “digestion period,” resulting from the F&R sale, Drew McReynolds, an analyst at RBC Capital Markets said he expects Thomson Reuters’ stock to find a “stronger floor in the low US$40s.”

Net sales in the Financial & Risk division, Thomson Reuters’ biggest unit, were positive for the quarter.

Revenue for the unit rose 1 percent to $1.55 billion excluding currency. Under the deal with Blackstone, Thomson Reuters will retain a 45-percent stake in Financial & Risk.

Thomson Reuters, which is the parent of Reuters News, competes for financial customers with Bloomberg LP, as well as News Corp's NWSA.O Dow Jones unit.

Thomson Reuters has relied heavily on cost-cutting in recent years as its core customers, including banks, brokerages and investment houses, retrench in the face of weakening trading conditions, tougher regulations and the rise of passive investing.

After the Blackstone deal, Thomson Reuters will focus on expanding its Legal, Tax & Accounting and Regulatory businesses, the company has said.

Revenue in the Legal business was $881 million in the fourth quarter, up 1 percent excluding currency. The company’s Tax & Accounting unit reported revenue of $443 million, up 6 percent excluding currency.

Reuters News revenue was $75 million in the quarter, down 5 percent excluding currency.

Reporting By Jessica Toonkel; Editing by Nick Zieminski