CBS shares are up more than 4% in pre-market trading after this morning’s announcement. The company says that stock buy-backs will rise 57% to $4.7B. It has already spent $1.7B, so the change means it will spend an additional $3B. CBS also is accelerating the plan: It expects to make all of the repurchases by the end of 2014. Meanwhile the board authorized a 20% jump in the quarterly dividend to 12 cents a share. The next payment is scheduled for October 1 to shareholders of record as of September 10. CFO Joseph Ianniello told analysts in May that in 2011 “we doubled our dividend as well as doubled our share buyback program. So again, we’re looking at that all the time. We’re committed. And it’s our major priority to look to increase that over time.”
UPDATE: Les Moonves Calls CBS ‘A Fundamentally Different Co’ As 2Q Results Top Profit And Revenue Expectations
UPDATE, 2:45 PM: Les Moonves stuck to familiar themes in his conference call with analysts. He says CBS is “confident” it will collect about $250M next year from cable and satellite retransmission payments. That will eventually grow to about $700M and “it drops right to the bottom line.” The CBS chief also says he’s unfazed by Fox’s plan to launch Simon Cowell’s talent contest The X Factor. It’s “going to be a big hit” at a time when American Idol “is still a monster.” But Moonves says “it won’t hurt us” because CBS attracts a different audience with its scripted shows. The old series in its vault also have new value as online services including Netflix and Amazon search for shows to stream. Moonves says that Dish Network — which recently bought Blockbuster — wants programming. Also, “we hear Apple wanting to buy content and Google and Microsoft,” he says. All in all, “CBS is a fundamentally different company today than we were a few years ago.”
As for the rest of the call, someone really needs to tell Chairman Sumner Redstone to cool it with the “genius” references. Analysts laughed months ago when he used the word to describe Moonves and Viacom’s Philippe Dauman. Redstone sadly trotted it out again today, saying that Moonves delivered “the performance of a genius” in 2Q. It’s no slight to him to say that luck is also a big factor in the company’s upbeat story.
BREAKING NEWS… CBS Corp paid its chief Les Moonves a compensation package worth $57.7 million in 2010, a 34% raise over 2009, the company reported Friday. That made him Big Media’s second-highest-paid CEO — trailing only Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman, who was the country’s highest-paid chief executive with $84.5 million. Moonves’ total included a $20 million bonus as well as a $7.5 million cash payment. The payment was “for his leadership in connection with the creation of premium content across the Company’s portfolio of businesses, particularly with respect to the CBS Television Network, which outperformed its media peers in 2010,” the company said in its annual proxy statement. Of course even a chimp could have improved CBS’ financial performance last year. Virtually every major media company benefited as the economy began to recover from the depths of the recession in 2009. Broadcasters also picked up a lot of ad sales from candidates running in 2010′s hotly contested local political campaigns. CBS’ stock appreciated 37.5% during the calendar year.