Thomson Reuters profit tops Wall St. forecasts, shares hit all-time high

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp on Wednesday reported stronger-than-expected quarterly profit, boosted by demand for information it sells to legal professionals, and reaffirmed its forecast for the rest of this year and 2020.

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

Its Canadian-listed stock rose 1.9% to C$83.76 after earlier hitting an all-time high of $C84.45. The shares are up more than 60% over the past 12 months.

The news and information provider and parent of Reuters News reported earnings excluding special items of 36 cents per share, compared with 28 cents per share a year ago, helped by lower interest expenses and by stock repurchases.

That beat the average analyst estimate of 25 cents, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

First-quarter revenue rose 8 percent to $1.49 billion, slightly below analysts’ average estimate of $1.5 billion.

For 2019, the company repeated its forecast for revenue growth of 7% to 8.5% before the effect of currency, and growth of about half that pace in 2020.

Currency exchange rates slightly reduced sales across the company’s operations but excluding that effect, each of the company’s units reported higher revenue. The largest business, Legal Professionals, reported a 3-percent rise in sales in constant currency to $594 million and a 19-percent jump in adjusted earnings. Law firms account for the bulk of the segment’s customer base.

“What’s driving our business is the ever-increasing regulatory environment that our clients have to deal with and needs for efficiencies and tools to help our professional customers do their job,” Chief Executive Jim Smith said in an interview.

Last year, Thomson Reuters sold a 55-percent stake in its Financial & Risk (F&R) unit, which provides data and news primarily to financial customers, to private equity firm Blackstone Group LP. The F&R unit is now a standalone business called Refinitiv.

Thomson Reuters, controlled by Canada’s Thomson family, has said it set aside $2 billion of the $17 billion proceeds from the Blackstone deal for purchases to help expand its Legal, Tax & Accounting and Corporates businesses.

Asked for an update on that acquisitions strategy, Smith said: “We are still hunting. We are actively exploring the market.”

Reuters News revenue more than doubled to $155 million in the latest quarter, due to a 30-year agreement for Reuters to supply news and editorial content to Refinitiv, which began in the fourth quarter of 2018.

Thomson Reuters in November appointed Michael Friedenberg as president of Reuters News. The senior leadership team just reviewed Friedenberg’s strategy and will share it with the board in June, Smith said on Wednesday.

Additional reporting by Ken Li; Writing by Nick Zieminski in New York; Editing by Bill Rigby