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Nielsen (NLSN) Reports In-Line Q1 Earnings and Revenues

Nielsen Holdings plc NLSN reported adjusted first-quarter 2016 earnings of 47 cents per share, in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

Revenues

Reported revenues came at $1.49 billion, up 2.0% year over year due to solid performance by its Buy and Watch businesses. Also, revenues were in line with the Zacks Consensus Estimate.

On a constant currency basis, revenues increased 5.2%.

Revenues by Segment

Buy business revenues were $793 million (53% of total revenue), down 0.6% year over year but up 4.3% on a constant currency basis. Excluding the foreign currency impact, revenues in the Developed and Emerging markets grew 2.0% and 10.0%, respectively.

Watch business revenues were $694 million (47%), up 5.2% year over year or 6.3% on a constant currency basis. The increase came on the back of continued strength in Audience Measurement and marketing effectiveness, which improved 7.5% and 28.8%, respectively, on a constant currency basis.

Operating Results

Reported gross margin was 56.9%, down 40 basis points (bps) from the year-ago period.

Nielsen’s operating expenses, namely selling, general and administrative expenses of $465 million, were down 3.3% from the year-ago figure of $481 million. However, operating margin expanded 150 bps year over year to 15.1%.

Net Income

On a GAAP basis, Nielsen recorded net profit of $100 million or 27 cents per share compared with $63 million or 17 cents in the year-ago quarter.

On an adjusted basis, net profit per share came in at 47 cents compared with 42 cents a year ago.

Balance Sheet & Cash Flow

Nielsen exited the quarter with cash balance of approximately $432 million against $357 million in the last quarter. Gross debt was $7.660 billion, up from $7.338 billion at the end of fourth-quarter 2015.

Net debt (gross debt excluding cash and cash equivalents) was $7.228 billion and net debt leverage ratio was 3.84x at the end of the quarter.

Cash flow from operations decreased to $87 million from the year-ago tally of $101 million. However, free cash flow increased to $14 million from a use of $1 million in the first quarter of 2015.

Dividend and Share Repurchases

During the quarter, the company increased its quarterly cash dividend by 11% to $0.31 per common share. The payment will be made on Jun 16, 2016 to shareholders of record on Jun 2, 2016.

Nielsen repurchased $83 million of its stock during the first quarter. The company has a total of $772 million remaining under the existing repurchase program, which it expects to utilize by the end of 2017.

Our Take

Nielsen Holdings is an information and measurement company which offers media and marketing information on what consumers watch and buy on a global and local basis. The company reported decent results in the first quarter of 2016.

Continued dividend payment and share repurchase reflect Nielsen’s financial strength and commitment to return value to shareholders. Also, the company's product launches are progressing well and should drive revenues in the near term.

However, continued investments in technology and infrastructure could weigh on margins and profitability, going forward.

Currently, Nielsen has a Zacks Rank #3 (Hold).

Some better-ranked stocks in the broader technology sector are Verisk Analytics, Inc. VRSK, sporting a Zacks Rank #1 (Strong Buy), and The Dun & Bradstreet Corporation DNB and FactSet Research Systems Inc. FDS carrying a Zacks Rank #2 (Buy).

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