Viacom CEO rails against 'naysayers' as sales miss estimates, shares tumble

Tue Feb 9, 2016 5:41pm EST
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By Jessica Toonkel and Anya George Tharakan

(Reuters) - Viacom Inc (VIAB.O: Quote) CEO Philippe Dauman railed at critics of his leadership after a fifth straight quarter missing Wall Street's sales estimates on Tuesday, unnerving investors and sending the media company's shares down more than 21 percent to a five-year low.

They were Dauman's first public remarks since replacing the ailing 92-year-old Sumner Redstone as executive chairman last week, an appointment that was opposed by Redstone's daughter and greeted by skepticism by some investors.

"Our outlook and the facts have been distorted and obscured by the naysayers, self-interested critics and publicity seekers," Dauman said on a call with analysts following the results as he was questioned over his strategy.

Viacom and to a lesser extent CBS, both majority-owned by Redstone, have come under scrutiny in light of Redstone's declining health, which is the subject of a lawsuit brought by one of his ex-girlfriends.

Investors are increasingly concerned over Viacom's handling of its relationships with the cable and telecom companies such as Dish Network Corp (DISH.O: Quote), Comcast Corp (CMCSA.O: Quote) and AT&T Inc (T.N: Quote) that pay to distribute its shows.

Viacom cut its fiscal 2016 growth outlook for the fees it gets from affiliates to “low to mid single digits” from high single digits, citing numerous issues.

Viacom's shares closed down 21.5 percent at $32.86 on Nasdaq, their lowest mark in almost five and a half years, shedding $3 billion in market value. They are now down more than 50 percent over the past 12 months.

On the conference call on Tuesday, Dauman said Redstone and he were "in harmony" about the company's strategy. Redstone, who is now chairman emeritus, was on the call, according to Viacom, but did not speak.   Continued...

Philippe Dauman, president and CEO of Viacom, speaks at the Reuters Global Media Summit in New York in this December 2, 2010 file photo. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid