Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Q4 2005 Earnings Conference Call Transcript (MSO)

Feb.22.06 | About: Martha Stewart (MSO)

Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia Q4 2005 Earnings Conference Call (NYSE:MSO)

February 22, 2006


Howard Hochhauser, VP Finance and Investor Relations

Susan Lyne, President and CEO


Douglas Arthur, Morgan Stanley

Michael Meltz, Bear Stearns

Robert Raff, Jeffries and Company

Dennis McAlpine, McAlpine and Associates


Howard Hochhauser, VP Finance and Investor Relations.

Thank you very much and good afternoon everyone. Welcome to our conference call to review Q4 2005 results. Susan Lyne our president and CEO will speak about some of our recent initiatives and I will talk about our recent performance and our guidance for 2006. Our prepared remarks should take about 20 minutes and then I will open it up to your questions.

Let me remind you if you prefer to listen in on the web you can go to and go to the investor relations link and follow it to the web cast. An audio archive will be available on later today and we’ll leave it there for a couple of weeks so that you can access it at your convenience.

Before turning the call over to Susan I’ll remind you that our statements that are made pursuant to the private securities litigation reform act of 1995 as amended. These statements do not guarantee our future performance and involve certain risks and uncertainties which are difficult to predict. Actual future results and trends may differ materially from what is forecast in forward looking statements, due to a variety of factors. No I will turn things over to Susan.

Susan Lyne, President and CEO.

Thank you Howard. Good afternoon everyone and thank you for joining us on our Q4 and year end 2005 earnings conference call. I’ve been looking forward to this call because we have strong results to report and because directionally I believe the company is in excellent shape. Our Q4 results outpaced expectations, with operating profit improvement in every segment.

Revenue increased 40% to $84.5 million; OIDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization, and non-cash stock compensation) was $11.7 million ahead of our earlier guidance of $11 million, and $13.4 million better than last year.

Operating income went from a loss of $9.5 million to a positive $2.5 million.

Revenue growth was seen across every segment but rose most sharply in our publishing business where ad pages at Martha Stewart Living were up a stellar 133% with ad revenue growing ahead of pages and consumer trends continuing to show strength. This trend is continued into 2006. We expect full year pages to increase another 35-40%.

As Howard said, he will take you through the full financial results later in the call but I’d like to turn now to 2006.

Howard Hochhauser, VP Finance and Investor Relations.

I’m going to take my section of the call then I’ll turn it back to Susan to walk through the guidance.

In the 4th quarter, we continued to build on our recovery, with year over year improvements in every business segment. As Susan said, total revenue in the quarter increased 40% or $24 to $84.5 million while our EBITDA increased $13 million to $11.7 million, ahead of our guidance. Earnings per share excluding non-cash equity compensation was $.19 in the quarter, compared to an EPS loss, excluding non-cash equity compensation of $.03 in the prior year period.

Let me touch on some financial highlights of the 4th quarter.

In publishing, advertising pages at Martha Stewart living increased 133% with advertising revenue increasing ahead of page growth. Circulation revenue in Martha Stewart Living also increased in the period.

In broadcasting, our results included a full quarter of our Martha television show and six weeks of revenue and profit from the launch of our satellite radio channel.

In merchandising, the results for the quarter include the related to our minimum guarantees from K-Mart of $16.6 million.

Our internet direct commerce segment reflects advertising revenue of $1.7 million relative to $200,000 in the prior year quarter. Given the high margin nature of advertising revenue and disciplined expense control, we were able to report our first profitable quarter. Corporate expenses increased largely due to higher year over year consulting and difficult comparisons with prior year. The quarter also included a non-cash charge of $4.1 million associated with divesting of shares covered by a warrant granted in connection with the airing of the final episode of the Apprentice Martha Stewart. To date, none of the shares covered by the warrant have been exercised. I would also like to clarify the potential share dilution related to the warrant. Of the 2.5 million shares covered by the warrant, all have a strike price of $12.59. Assuming full vesting, upon the exercise of the shares, Mark Burnett will need to provide the company a value of $31.5 million, either in cash or in stock. Therefore, the actual dilution based on the exercise of all shares is approximately $650,000, only 1% of our total shares outstanding.

Let me now provide you with first quarter guidance on a segment basis.

For the first quarter of 2006 we expect to report revenue of $60 million with an OIDA loss of $3-$3.5 million. Our operating loss is expected to be in the range of $8.5 million to $9 million. Factors contributing to the first quarter results within each segment are as follows:

For publishing, first quarter revenues are expected to be approximately $35 million, while OIDA is expected to be approximately $1 million, an improvement of over $8 million, year over year.

Revenue and operating results reflect higher advertising and circulation revenues at Martha Stewart Living, resulting from higher ad pages and subscription copies sold as well as the continued reduction in our losses in Everyday Food and principally to lower subscriber acquisition costs. The quarter will also include an investment of approximately $1.5 million in blueprint magazine.

Broadcasting revenues are expected to be approximately $12 million, as we benefit from a full quarter of our new syndicated show and our new radio program on Sirius. OIDA for the first quarter will approximate $500,000.

Merchandising revenues in the quarter are expected to be approximately $10 million, but OIDA will be approximately $5.5-$6 million.

We expect internet direct commerce revenues will approximately $3 million for the quarter and OIDA of break-even.

Corporate expenses will approximate $10.5 million.

Full year guidance. For the full year we are forecasting revenues of $270-$280 million with OIDA in the range of $10-$12 million including a $5 million investment in Blueprint magazine and a $3 million investment in developing our internet business. We anticipate reporting growth in all business segments. Highlights for 2006 include strong growth in advertising pages and revenue in Martha Stewart Living magazine, the full year benefit of our satellite radio channel and the Martha show in our broadcasting segment, an increase in the minimum guarantees with K-Mart as well as the benefit of our TB Home program, partially offset by the development of our craft program. In our internet direct commerce segment, we anticipate reinvesting the incremental revenue and online advertising back into the business to allow the segment to break even in 2006. Corporate costs will also come down as we cycle through some of our unusual specialties.

We anticipate CapEx of $7 million in 2006, just over half of which will be used in the development of our new web platform. Now let me turn it back over to Susan.

Susan Lyne.

Let’s get back to the priorities for 2006. We are committed to delivering free cash flow in ’06 and we’re just as focused on laying the groundwork for long term sustainable growth. To do this, we will stay focused on ad revenue goals and on building the ratings for our syndicated television show. Our strategic focus is on three areas that we know can be primary drivers in the future. First, our internet business. Strong Q4 growth in our internet traffic and revenues along with user trends on the web in general, give us confidence that this segment can become a significant contributor in the future. I’ll address the specifics of this in a moment.

Second, our demographic reach. The 25-45 year olds are big consumers of lifestyle information and an increasingly important target for advertisers. We will leverage our lifestyle expertise and our publishing infrastructure to tap this somewhat younger, aspirational audience. And third, new merchandising businesses. Smart licensing programs seeded now will support consistent and steady growth for many years to come. We’re focused on categories where our brands carry equity, where we have the expertise to improve on existing products and where the market opportunity is great.

Our KB home initiative is a terrific example of this. It’s a long term, high margin business. The company’s expertise in home style and our aspirational brand, together with the quality, value and innovation of KB Home. The first community of 655 Martha Stewart Homes in Raleigh, NC will open to the public on March 9th. Based on very strong initial consumer response, we recently concluded an agreement to expand the initiative nationwide. In the first phase of the new agreement, we will help design an additional 1,200 homes in and around Atlanta, Charlotte, Houston, Orlando and Daytona Beach.

The contract also calls for MSLO to create a line of interior and exterior home products or design options in a range of categories, floor categories, lighting fixtures, bathroom fixtures, kitchen cabinets, hardware, window treatments, doors and closet organizers. These products, called Martha’s choices, will be available exclusively in KB studios nationwide.

To frame the economics of this business, of the 1,800 lots in communities that will be opened by year end, we anticipate closing on approximately 200 homes in ’06 and receive a 6,500-8,500 per home, exclusive of Martha’s Choices. We are not prizing Martha’s Choices until license agreements for the products are completed.

We’re currently reviewing several other attractive locations for future development with KB Home including Las Vegas and Southern California, but the potential revenue of those we’ve signed on for is in the range of $11-$15 million. And with all of our licensing deals, we have no inventory or capital costs. Our principal cost is our design staff and studios.

Martha has taken a very active, hands-on role in this program, working with our design teams to create unique environments that will add significant value to the homes KB builds. We are providing stylistic input on elevations, floor plans, materials, creating new functionalities to open plan kitchen and pantries, laundry rooms and closets and applying classic design styles to fireplace mantels, moldings, cabinets and bookcases. We are working with KB Home suppliers to find superior options for home buyers throughout the houses from faucets and tiles to sinks and countertops. Nine model homes and three town home models in Raleigh also feature Martha Stewart signature furniture and paint.

Last month we announced another new merchandising partnership that will expand our product offerings and distribution channels. This one is EK success and DPCR Golderamer to create, market and sell Martha Stewart craft products. The first line of products, which will be introduced late this year or early next year will be paper based craft and scrap booking merchandise. I’m going out on a limb here and guessing that no one on this call is into scrap booking, but at over $3 billion in annual sales it is the fastest growing piece of the $30 billion market. Despite the sale of craft products at big boxes as well as thousands of independent stores, there still is no national brand in this category. We see that as a huge opportunity for our company and for our brand. This is the first licensing agreement that we’ve struck that also includes equity in the venture. The value of which is tied to specific hurdles and it’s an excellent partnership. With EK’s successes, superior manufacturing capability and DPCR’s interest in the category, we are looking for additional ways to capitalize on our expertise and brand equity in this crafts arena.

Since Martha returned to the company in March, we have fielded a vast array of business opportunities. While many offered tempting short term returns, we’ve taken a disciplined approach to assessing new ventures, with an eye to building the company we want to be 5 or even 10 years from now. Martha Stewart home and Martha Stewart Craft are both high margin, long term businesses that offer a multitude of synergistic opportunities across MSLO’s other segments.

Our internet business is a top priority for 2006. The most important trend being cited in this digital world is personalization; self-expression, community and video are all concepts that speak to our strengths. Our multimedia library and highly trafficked lifestyle categories are vast, complimentary and evergreen, and easy to slice and dice to accommodate user preferences. Our core community has a strong connection to our brand and we believe they would relish connecting with each other and sharing their own ideas. And with some simple applications we can allow users not to access creative ideas and templates but to act on them online.

Given all of these factors along with the fact that women 40+ are among the fastest growing internet user group, we are well-positioned to make the internet a significant revenue drive. But to realize the revenue targets we’ve set for ’07 and ’08, we need to make a strategic investment now. This will allow us to make much more of our content available online and to strengthen our internet team, especially in the ad sales area. It will buy us the software we need to improve our navigation and search functions and make how-to content with relevant video clips, and to strengthen the links to commercial sites where our products are sold.

We will spend only where it’s wise and where feasible, we’ll forge strategic partnerships to enable consumers to interact with our content in a unique way. A key component of this build out will compliment our initiative, offering digital templates for scrap booking and allowing users to manage their scrap booking projects on our site.

We saw significant Q4 growth in our internet segment. 41% in unique users, 43% in page views, along with very strong ad revenue increases. As a result of that growth, we are forecasting a $3 million EBITDA profit in ’06 for internet direct. By reinvesting that profit in the business and delivering break-even results in the segment, we expect to position the company for much greater returns going forward.

Our internet growth in Q4 coincided with Martha’s return to daily television. The Martha Show has created a halo effect on many of our businesses, reflected in increased newsstand sales, unique visitors to and corporate ad sales. We’d initially forecast a modest profit for the show, but based on current ratings which have stabilized around 1.8, we are now forecasting a modest loss in the range of $1-$2 million. Martha has been picked up for a 2nd season and has already been cleared for ’07, ’08 in over 90% of the country, and last month received 6 Emmy Award nominations.

As I mentioned earlier, we plan to turn our expertise in lifestyle publishing towards a new audience. I tend on these calls to focus on publishing’s revenue growth, which has clearly outpaced expectations this year. But its worth noting that our magazines have won every award of note this year, from ASME’s design and general excellent award for Kids and Martha Stewart Living, to Adweek’s launch of the year for Everyday Food. In the spring this enormously talented team will introduce Blueprint, a new magazine aimed at a younger customer with a busy life. Expanding on Living’s core areas of expertise, Blueprint will also cover fashion, beauty, fitness, travel, technology and culture. We anticipate investing $5 million in the new title in ’06. The first test issue will go on sale in May with an initial rate base 250,000.

Our research continues to tell us that demand for our company’s expertise and products is very strong. And, that favorables for both the Martha Stewart brand and Martha herself are higher than ever. As we’ve learned over the past few years, the loyalty of our customers is remarkable. Through even the most difficult times, our core customer base supported us, continuing to buy our magazines and products. What’s interesting to note, in retrospect, is that when Martha returned, other, including advertisers and perceptive partners, came back, too.

We believe our goals for 2006 are ambitious as they should be, but obtainable. As always we will listen to consumers and we will continue to respond by providing the content and products they want in all the places they want to find them.

Howard Hochhauser, VP Finance and Investor Relations.

Thank you, Susan. Now we’ll open it up to the floor for questions.

Question-and-Answer Session


The first question will be coming from Douglas Arthur of Morgan Stanley.

Douglas Arthur.

Susan, on the internet strategy…Martha Stewart Living’s been down this road before and the outcome was not particularly a good one. What’s different this time and wouldn’t it make sense, like you’ve partnered in other businesses, to perhaps partner with somebody to really lever the internet opportunity. And then, Howard, can you just update us on the rate base current and outlook for the monthly magazine, the Living magazine.

Susan Lyne.

Let me start this by talking about what’s really different about our strategy this time. Initially we had a commerce play on the internet. It was our catalog business primarily, with some content but it was complimentary content. What we realized was that we really are not experts enough in certain areas, assortment inventory, delivery, and really factored into how we are defining our partnership, commerce partnerships, going forward. They are licensing partnerships that are very high margin and that allow us to do what we do really well which is to design and conceive of products. This is a different play. This is a content play. As I said, we have phenomenal multimedia libraries. Print, video, audio … and making that available and really tapping what is an increasingly robust advertising market for the internet, is what gives us confidence going forward. I think that when the company first got into the internet like a lot of people, it was not clear exactly where the business opportunities lay. That’s a lot clearer now. There is a model that is working very well, an advertising model. That does not mean we will not do some offerings for pay at a certain point, but our clear focus is on content, ad-driven, free content.

Howard Hochhauser.

And Doug on the rate base…

Susan Lyne.

Actually, let me just add one other thing because you had a second part of your question. We will partner where it’s appropriate. Our investment here is relatively small; we’re not talking about investing many tens of millions of dollars. As I said, this is a three million dollar investment this year and some capital investment as well. But still relatively small. And where it is more effective for us to partner than to build, we will do that. We will also partner build traffic. So, we are deep into those kinds of conversations and I think we have a very good strategy going forward.

Howard Hochhauser.

And to Susan’s point we already have traction with the Q4 ad revenue of $1.7 million relative to $200,000, prior year. On the rate base with Martha Stewart Living, we increased it with the January issue to 1.9 million from 1.8 million a year ago, so it’s about a 6% increase. On top of that, we increased rates about 5%. And, because of the strong ABC numbers, the strong circulation numbers, the on the upside.

Douglas Arthur.

Okay great. I think Lisa has a follow up.


Howard could you just give us a little color on the cash in the quarter. It was actually a little lower than we expected. Closer to the $120 range…is that largely a function of the payment from K-Mart? And then secondly, if you could just give us a little bit more color on Everyday product performance at K-Mart. You said it was down slightly. If you could just give a little more color on that in the quarter and what you’re thinking about for ’06. Thanks.

Howard Hochhauser.

On the cash balance, we have the receivable from K-Mart of about $27 million. That’s due to us at the end of the month. And we get that check on time so that the end of February the cash balance will go up to about $120 million. There’s also some changes in working capital. In the whole business, revenue is up $24 million, so receivables go up about that amount. You have the TV show, you have circulation increases and we spoke about the merchandising increase. On the K-mart number, the year to date number, we’re up about 11.7% in comp store sales and last year we’re down about 4% in comp store sales. So the 4% is relatively good out performance to K-mart and the 11%, 11.7% is pretty strong year to date comp category performance.


Our next question will be coming from Michael Meltz of Bear Stearns.

Michael Meltz.

Great, thank you. Howard, you went through the number on publishing, advertising and circ performance, can you just clarify for me, what was segment advertising and circ up and what was MSL advertising and circ? My second question, Susan you mentioned the opportunity with the KB Homes. Is the margin at that business as you see it; is it much different than the 70% margin that you currently report at your merchandising segment? And then I have one last question, I’ll follow up.

Susan Lyne.

I’ll start while Howard’s getting those numbers for you. No, this is a very similar margin to our K-Mart business; I would say 70-75%.

Howard Hochhauser.

On the Martha Stewart Living, the ad revenue grew 160% and circ was up 12%, with both newsstand and subscriptions up a comparable amount. So that should give you a flavor for the rest of the business.

Michael Meltz.

And for the segments?

Howard Hochhauser.

Let me just…I can tell you as a highlight how each business did or how each publication did. Each publication was up in total circulation revenue and in ad revenue. I don’t have the actual percentages here but if you the Martha Stewart Living numbers I just gave you, you could come up with a rough approximation for each publication. But each one was up in sub and in ad revenue.

Michael Meltz.

Thank you. One last question: does your guidance on the, corporate guidance, is there a Burnett charge in that number?

Howard Hochhauser.

There is not.

Michael Meltz.

Okay. And last question, the comment that you made on the K-mart performance, you gave ’05. What was K-mart performance in Q4?

Howard Hochhauser.

Give me one minute. The 4th quarter K-mart performance was -3%.

Michael Meltz.

Okay. Thank you very much.


Our next question will be coming from Robert Raff, with Jeffries and Company.

Robert Raff.

Good morning guys. A couple of quick questions. First, given that you’re going to be cash flow positive this year in the cash balance you have and the lack of debt, I’m wondering if the company is considering in any way, shape or form some type of recapitalization because right now obviously your cost of capital is your cost of equity, which definitely doesn’t allow you to create leveraged equity returns as you’re going through this inflection point in all your core businesses. I’m wondering if you could comment on whether there are any ideas on that front and on the part of management. Second, I was wondering if you would comment on whether the company is looking into other businesses on the television side, such as home shopping because it seems there would be a natural fit for the Martha Stewart brand and what you have going on there. And finally, if you could give us any update on the negotiations that you’re having with Sears.

Susan Lyne.

Let me start with…I’m trying to remember what the first of your questions was.

Howard Hochhauser.

Recapitalization of some type.

Susan Lyne.

We think about this all the time and really we would be prepared to do that if there is a reason to do it. We are certainly looking at the optimum ways to use that cash for a period of time it was really a safety net for us. But I think if you look at the businesses we’re beginning to build right now, you can probably make some assumptions about the arenas of interest for the company going forward, if we were to make an acquisition. But we will only do that if something is really right where we feel like we can, by making an acquisition that we can make most businesses better. So nothing to report there right now. And in terms of home shopping, we look at all kinds of things. But again, I wouldn’t comment on any particular area. And what was the first question?

Robert Raff.

On the Sears negotiation.

Susan Lyne.

Nothing to report there. As we’ve said before, we have a very strong K-Mart contract. It’s good for our shareholders; it’s good for our company. If we were to be able to strike an agreement with Sears that was good for our shareholders, we would absolutely do that. But in the meantime, we are building our merchandising business very nicely in new channels and with new product lines.

Robert Raff.

Great. And just one last question. I noticed a couple of weeks ago you name Jill Greenthal to your board of directors and obviously given his reputation as a banker, she’s not there to do nothing. I’m just curious as to what inspired that choice and if there’s anything you can say related to that appointment.

Susan Lyne.

She was clearly just an excellent board candidate. She’s only been to one meeting thus far so I think it’s premature to talk about how she might be helping our company. But I will say that she is an excellent addition to our board. We have a very strong board now. I think we have a mix of competencies on that board that will allow us to get guidance as we build the company.

Robert Raff.

Great. Thank you very much and congratulations.


The next question comes from Dennis McAlpine of McAlpine and Associates.

Dennis McAlpine.

Thank you and good morning. Just to go back to your original premise, I should say that you’re half wrong or half right, depending on where you are on the scrap booking. My wife is an avid scrap booker, so she’s just waiting for it.

Susan Lyne.

That makes me happy. We went out with a very small team to Las Vegas to the craft show and put up a display, really without any products, just with our brand and with some of the how-to ideas we’ve been publishing for years in that area, and the reaction was astounding. There was not a person who did not stop by the booth and say, whatever you’re selling, we want it.

Dennis McAlpine.

Whatever happened to the days of scotch tape? On the publishing side, can you talk about I guess the combined losses of everything under Martha Stewart Living and where you see that going in ’06. And then, with Blueprint and Body & Soul you’re doing and I guess we have to put everyday food in there, and then also an acquisition, can you talk about your thoughts going forward? Whether you’re going to do more on the magazine side? Whether it will be a startup or an acquisition and there will be significant areas? You didn’t highlight that. And then lastly, would you talk about the TV show as far as what you would have to see to have a renewal for ’07?

Susan Lyne.

Let me start with the magazine piece of it. I’ll let Howard do the financial piece of it. But, I would just say that we have enormous expertise and enormous talent in our publishing area. We do see a real opportunity in a somewhat younger, busy lifestyle demographic. And, we are quite convinced that we can launch a title far more cost-effectively than buy a title. You’re talking about a $5 million investment this year and probably a total investment to profitability of about $20 million. To buy a title that would get us to that point would be in the $100 million range. This is a very, very vibrant part of the magazine consumer universe. There’s a lot of ad dollars there. We talk a lot about what the next Martha Stewart Living will be in our portfolio. How we build a second magazine that will be a large contributor to our EBITDA. And this is one of those arenas that we believe has that potential, clearly. Not a niche magazine, but a mass magazine.

Howard Hochhauser.

And Dennis, let me walk you through the numbers. In ’05, Body & Soul lost about $5 million, that loss is going to be cut in half in ’06 and the newsletter is actually going to be profitable next year. Let’s talk about Blueprint, that $5 million investment. Again, that investment’s coming down from almost $5 million in ’05 to about half that in ’06. And then Living and Weddings are going to be profitable.

Susan Lyne.

Let me talk about the show for a minute. What we do know about the show right now is that advertisers love it. We have had extremely satisfied advertisers on our show and I know that the local advertising market, the station markets has also had great success with advertisers. It’s a very advertiser friendly show and it tends to attract an audience that does purchase. So, that’s all to the good. The 1.8 number we are doing now is still the highest rating for a first year show, since Dr. Phil. Even Ellen was a 1.7 her first year. It’s a comfort TV universe that I’m sure you hear on all your media company calls. But our 1.8 is actually a fine number for most of our stations. And for a lot of our stations, we are doing significantly better numbers and they’re thrilled. So we are very heartened about the longevity of our show right now.

Dennis McAlpine.

Are you doing much cross-selling between the TV show and the other outlets?

Susan Lyne.

We are. Three of the larger cross-platform deals we’ve done were GE, Buick and Motrin, have been very perceptual, the advertisers. I think our ability to create larger programs for them has actually made long-term, committed advertisers.

Dennis McAlpine.

Thank you.


There are no further questions at this time. Mr. Hochhauser I turn the floor back over to you and any closing remarks you may have at this time, Sir.

Dennis Hochhauser.

Thank you and we look forward to talking with you next quarter.


This does conclude today’s Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia teleconference. You may disconnect your lines at this time and have a wonderful day.

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