iHeartMedia Shares Fall 20%: Q4 Will Be ‘Weaker Than We Originally Anticipated’

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iHeartMedia shares dropped 19.6% to $2.01 this week as the company warned investors of continued softness in radio advertising dollars. Fourth quarter results “will be weaker than we originally anticipated,” said CEO Bob Pittman during Thursday’s earnings call. In October, consolidated revenue was down 8% from the prior-year period. For the fourth quarter, iHeartMedia expects consolidated revenue excluding political ad revenue to decline in the low single digits. 

Still, iHeartMedia’s third-quarter results were in line with previous guidance. Revenue of $953 million was down 3.6% from the prior-year period, a bit better than the guidance of a low single-digit decrease. Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $204 million was within the guidance of $195 million to $205 million. 

The week’s sharp decline brought iHeartMedia’s year-to-date loss to 67.2%, far deeper than the declines of broadcast radio company Cumulus Media (-21.9%) and satellite radio company SiriusXM (-20.7%). Not only has broadcast radio suffered from weak national advertising, it lacks the high growth rates of music streaming and podcasting. PwC’s latest forecasts call for U.S. radio advertising revenues to rise just 4% from 2023 to 2027 while U.S. podcast advertising — where iHeartMedia has a large footprint — will grow 41% to $2 billion. 

Next year’s elections should provide a shot in the arm, though. “As we look forward to 2024, we expect to generate significantly better free cash flow driven in part by an improving macro environment, as well as the impact of political dollars,” said CFO Rich Bressler. In 2020, the company generated $167 million in political revenues, he noted.

The Billboard Global Music Index mostly held steady this week, dropping just 0.3% to 1,390.68. Of the index’s 20 stocks, seven gained this while while 13 finished in negative territory. Most stocks had low-single-digit gains or losses and iHeartMedia was the only stock with a double-digit move in either direction. 

French company Believe was the index’s greatest gainer of the week after improving 7.4% to 9.93 euros ($10.64). German concert promoter CTS Eventim, which will release third-quarter earnings on Nov. 21, gained 5.5% to 62.75 euros ($67.24). Music streaming company LiveOne gained 4.7% to $1.12. Chinese music streamer Cloud Music, which has not yet announced the date of its third-quarter earnings release, gained 3.3% to 99.50 HKD ($12.74). 

Shares of Sphere Entertainment Co. dropped 1.5% to $35.95 after a roller-coaster week. Following the company’s Nov. 3 announcement that CFO Gautum Ranji had left the company, Sphere Entertainment shares dropped 9.6% to $32.97 on Monday. The share price fell an additional 4.5% to $31.87 on Wednesday following the quarterly earnings release. But Sphere Entertainment picked up momentum in the latter half of the week, gaining 12.8% over Thursday and Friday to close at $35.95. 

U.S. stocks were broadly up this week despite news that consumer sentiment declined in November and expectations for future inflation reached their highest level since 2011. The Nasdaq composite rose 2.4% while the S&P 500 improved 1.3%. Many major U.S. tech stocks posted big gains. Microsoft hit an all-time high of $370.09 on Friday and finished the week at $369.67, up 4.8%. Apple rose 5.5% to $186.40. Amazon improved 3.6% to $143.56. Meta jumped 4.5% to $32.8.77. In the United Kingdom, the FTSE 100 fell 0.8%. South Korea’s KOSPI composite index gained 1.7%. 

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