* Company expects revenue growth in 2009
* Q4 EPS ex-items 57 cents vs Wall Street view 39 cents
* Dividend to rise by 4 cents/share on annualized basis
* Shares rise nearly 12 percent in Toronto (Adds analyst comment, currency adjustments)
By Robert MacMillan and Georgina Prodhan
NEW YORK/LONDON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp TRIL.L (TRI.TO) posted a stronger-than-expected quarterly profit, raised its dividend and said it expected revenue to grow in 2009 despite job cuts and reduced spending among its financial industry customers.
The news and financial data publisher, whose shares rose nearly 12 percent in Toronto on the results, said on Tuesday that all its businesses would help increase revenue in 2009 and that the year had started well in terms of subscription sales.
The markets division, which serves financial institutions, would do better than people expect, Chief Executive Tom Glocer said in an interview. “The business model of supplying professionals with all-electronic content is something that’s not a luxury good,” Glocer said.
The professional division, which sells databases and other deep information reservoirs to lawyers, accountants, scientists and the healthcare industry, will continue to bolster the company’s performance despite the downturn, he said.
That division accounts for 58 percent of the company’s profit and about 43 percent of revenue.
The company, formed by Thomson Corp’s purchase of Reuters Group Plc last April, reported fourth-quarter net income of $656 million, or 79 cents a share, compared with $432 million, or 67 cents a share, a year earlier.
Profit from ongoing businesses, excluding special items, was 57 cents per share, beating the average analyst forecast of 39 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.
The company said it expected that revenue, before currency effects, would grow in 2009 but it did not provide a specific forecast. Some analysts were expecting revenue to fall by up to 4 percent this year.
It also said its underlying free cash flow and operating margin this year would be comparable to 2008, supported by revenue growth and higher integration savings.
“They’re seeing sales growth; that’s probably a positive in this environment,” said Alex DeGroote, media analyst at brokerage Panmure Gordon in London. “The expectation of flat free cashflow in a tough market for the world appears very laudable.”
Thomson Reuters increased its dividend by 4 cents per share on an annualized basis, and said the quarterly dividend payable on March 26 would be 28 cents per share.
It also raised its forecast for annualized cost savings from the merger to $1 billion by the end of 2011, up from $750 million projected in May 2008. The integration plan does not include any new layoff rounds, Glocer said.
“We view these results as encouraging,” Numis analyst Lorna Tilbian wrote in a note to investors. Tilbian rates Thomson Reuters “hold.”
Thomson Reuters, like its rivals Bloomberg LP and News Corp’s (NWSA.O) Dow Jones & Co, is trying to sustain revenue growth even as major financial institutions such as Citigroup (C.N) and Bank of America (BAC.N) retrench.
Revenue in the markets division fell 2 percent to $1.9 billion. Excluding currency effects, revenue rose 4 percent, which UBS analyst Polo Tang said beat expectations.
Overall revenue was flat at $3.4 billion, but would have increased 5 percent before currency effects.
Thomson Reuters has enjoyed a more stable client base at its professional unit — which includes the Westlaw legal database — as banks, insurers and asset managers cut more than 312,000 jobs worldwide since the credit crisis began in 2007.
The professional division reported revenue of $1.5 billion in the fourth quarter, up 3 percent. The rise came in part from online, software and services revenue growth of 10 percent.
The unit’s revenue grew 6 percent, before currency adjustments, in line with Street estimates, UBS’s Tang said.
Anglo-Dutch publisher and professional information provider Reed Elsevier (REL.L) reported better-than-expected results last week, helped by higher sales at its LexisNexis legal division. [ID:nLJ360986]
Wolters Kluwer (WLSNc.AS), Europe’s biggest legal and tax publisher, is cutting jobs in the face of deteriorating economic conditions. It is due to report results on Wednesday.
Thomson Reuters shares closed up 11.47 percent at C$31.49 in Toronto. The London-listed shares closed at 1,409 pence, up 6.6 percent.
Until Tuesday, Thomson Reuters’ London shares had fallen by about 25 percent in the past 12 months while its Canadian shares have fallen about 20 percent amid worries that sales to financial clients would decline in line with levels experienced by Reuters Group Plc earlier in the decade. (Editing by Tiffany Wu and Ted Kerr)