February 1, 2018 / 1:34 PM / 8 months ago

UPDATE 3-Time Warner beats estimates on HBO growth

(Updates to move up HBO revenue growth, adds share price)

By Sonam Rai and Jessica Toonkel

Feb 1 (Reuters) - Time Warner Inc, which is in the process of being bought by AT&T Inc, reported better-than-expected quarterly profit and revenue on Thursday, powered by the success of its premium HBO channel.

The New York-based company said it expects adjusted operating income in the high single digits for 2018 and ad revenue in the high single to low double digits in the first quarter.

Time Warner Inc's shares were up 1.88 percent in afternoon trading Thursday.

Time Warner beat analyst estimates as it awaits the outcome of a Department of Justice lawsuit to block AT&T's $85 billion acquisition of Time Warner. That suit is set to go to trial in March.

The results demonstrate that Time Warner Inc's risk may be limited if the Department of Justice "defies our expectation and succeeds in its antitrust suit," Barton Crockett, a B. Riley FBR analyst wrote in a note.

Revenue from Home Box Office (HBO), rose 12.7 percent to $1.68 billion. Analysts were expecting revenue of $1.65 billion, according to data and analytics firm FactSet.

HBO premium channel has more than 5 million online streaming subscribers, up from 2 million a year ago, a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Thursday.

Those online subscribers come from all online streaming offerings it works with, including its own HBO Now as well as Amazon's Amazon Channels, AT&T's DirectTV Now and Sony Vue. Ad revenue was up two percent for its Turner division, which includes TBS, CNN and TNT, due to higher revenues associated with Major League Baseball post-season games and growth in Turner's international networks.

Revenue from Warner Bros, which includes the movie business and is the company's biggest unit by revenue, rose 4.8 percent to $4.05 billion. Analysts were expecting revenue of $4.03 billion, according to data and analytics firm FactSet.

"Justice League," featuring Israeli actress Gal Gadot and American actor Ben Affleck, had grossed more than $655.9 million globally as of Jan. 28, according to tracking firm Box Office Mojo. (bit.ly/2FtGPrn)

The company's net income attributable to shareholders surged to $1.39 billion, or 1.75 cents per share, in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, mainly due to a gain of $1.06 per share related to changes to U.S. tax laws.

In the year-ago quarter, the company earned $293 million, or 37 cents per share.

Revenue rose 9 percent to $8.61 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $8.42 billion. According to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S, Time Warner's adjusted EPS was $1.60 per share, while the average analyst estimate was $1.43. (Reporting by Sonam Rai in Bengaluru; editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Alistair Bell)

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