Thomson Reuters reports better-than-expected earnings

 Thomson Reuters reports better-than-expected earnings

NEW YORK Thomson Reuters Corp. reported higher-than-expected earnings in the fourth quarter, helped by cost cuts and gains on divestitures, but said that a weakening global economic environment was a concern.

The news and information company reported adjusted earnings of 73 cents per share, ahead of analyst forecasts for 65 cents, according to estimates from Refinitiv.

Thomson Reuters, which owns the Westlaw legal database and the Checkpoint tax and accounting service, said there were signs of a weakening global economic environment due to rising interest rates, high inflation and geopolitical risks.

It expects first-quarter organic sales growth at the lower end of its full-year target of 5.5 -- 6.0 per cent. The organic sales range matches the forecast made in November.

Steve Hasker told Reuters in an interview that the results and guidance shows that we are proving to be as resilient as we indicated and have traditionally been.

Revenues increased by 3 per cent in the fourth quarter to $1.765 billion, slightly ahead of expectations of $1.760 billion, according to Refinitiv. The sales growth was reduced by 2 per centage points and the divestitures by 1 point.

Four of the five business segments showed higher sales and operating profit, but those were lower in the Global Print business.

The Reuters News division saw total sales up 7 per cent, due to the Reuters Events business and the company's news agreement with the Data Analytics business of LSEG. As of Jan. 31, Thomson Reuters owned $5.6 billion worth of LSEG shares.

The company completed its two-year Change program to save costs. After it completes a $2 billion share repurchase program in the second quarter, the company said it plans to return $2 billion in capital to shareholders and possibly conduct a share stock split. It raised its dividend for the 30th straight year.

During the fourth quarter, Thomson Reuters said it would buy SurePrep LLC, a U.S.-based provider of tax automation software and services, for $500 million in cash. The deal was completed at the beginning of January.

Hasker said the company had about $11 billion in capacity for deals and is expected to pursue a couple this year, including adding more to its artificial intelligence capabilities.

We have made a lot of investments in AI over the last couple of years. He said it powers many of our products.