By Kenneth Li
(Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp <TRI.TO><TRI.N> said third quarter revenue rose on gains in its legal and corporates divisions and cost cuts helped lift its 2020 free cash flow outlook, prompting a near 4% rise in its shares on Tuesday.
The news and information company said the results gave it "increasing confidence" for its full-year financial forecast, although the course of the COVID-19 pandemic could change this.
Thomson Reuters, which owns Reuters News, said in a statement that its revenue rose 2% to $1.44 billion (1.11 billion pounds) in the third quarter, while its operating profit rose 21% to $318 million.
"I’m very pleased to report our markets and businesses continue to prove resilient in the face of a challenging broader macro-environment," Chief Executive Steve Hasker said.
The company said its adjusted earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) rose by 42% in the third quarter as a result of higher revenue and a pandemic-related cost cutting program.
Executives said during an analyst call that Thomson Reuters had surpassed its cost cutting target by about $30 million to reach a total of about $130 million, and that the company planned to reinvest in its core businesses during the fourth quarter.
Matt Arnold, an analyst at Edward Jones, said in a research note that it was a "solid quarter" for Thomson Reuters, that demonstrated the "resilience of its subscription based model".
Chief Financial Officer Michael Eastwood said in an interview that Thomson Reuters was still evaluating acquisition targets and could announce a deal this year or early in 2021.
The company has about $700 million to spend as part of a $2 billion budget to fund expansion in its legal, tax and accounting businesses.
Thomson Reuters' adjusted earnings of 39 cents per share were ahead of the 38 cents analysts expected, according to IBES data from Refinitiv, while the company's quarterly revenue was also slightly above Wall Street expectations.
The Legal Professionals, Tax & Accounting Professionals and Corporates divisions all had higher organic quarterly sales and adjusted profit.
Thomson Reuters said its results were boosted by strong sales from Practical Law, Westlaw Edge and its European and Canadian businesses and a revenue increase from the tax division after a U.S. tax filing deadline extension from April to July.
Organic revenues at the Reuters News division slipped 2%, reflecting a decline in the agency business and the ongoing impact of the coronavirus crisis on its events business.
Thomson Reuters reaffirmed its full-year guidance of revenue rising by 1% to 2% and raised its free cash flow forecast to about $1.1 billion, at the higher end of the previous outlook.
The company also confirmed that London Stock Exchange's <LSE.L> purchase of the Refinitiv data and analytics business is expected to close in the first quarter of 2021, when it also expects to incur a tax bill of about $600 million.
Thomson Reuters executives said that the company could fund the payment through free cash flow, its cash on hand of $1.2 billion or by drawing on credit facilities.
The sale of Thomson Reuters' 45% Refinitiv stake will result in it holding 15% of the LSE, estimated to be worth some $9 billion, which it plans to sell within five years and use the proceeds to reinvest in its main businesses.
(Reporting by Kenneth Li; Editing by Alexander Smith)