Steve Hasker named new CEO of Thomson Reuters, earnings top estimates

  • >> Reuters
    Published: 2020-02-25 18:51:31 BdST

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Newly announced Thomson Reuters president and chief executive officer Steve Hasker poses in Toronto, Ontario, Canada February 24, 2020. Reuters

Thomson Reuters Corp said on Tuesday it had appointed former Nielsen Holdings Plc president Steve Hasker as its new chief executive officer, succeeding Jim Smith.

The parent of Reuters News also announced higher-than-expected fourth-quarter earnings on Tuesday, reporting a 60% year-on-year rise in operating profit, helped by lower costs and investments following the separation of the Financial and Risk (F&R) business.

Hasker, most recently a top executive at Hollywood talent agency CAA, will assume his new role on March 15, Thomson Reuters said. Smith, a former journalist who oversaw a period of major change at the company, will stay on for a transition period and become chairman of the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Stephane Bello, Chief Financial Officer, will also step down from his role and will be succeeded by Mike Eastwood, current Senior Vice President of Corporate Finance. Bello will oversee strategy and business development into 2021, the company said.

Thomson Reuters maintained its organic revenue growth target of 4% to 4.5% in 2020 and said its margins will be a little higher than it forecast in October and also above 2019 levels.

EARNINGS BEAT

Adjusted earnings in the fourth quarter rose to $216 million or 37 cents per share from $135 million or 19 cents a share. Analysts, on average, expected 33 cents a share, according to IBES from Refinitiv.

The news and information provider posted a 4% rise in organic revenues to $1.58 billion and showed higher sales in each of its three largest divisions: Legal Professionals, Corporates and Tax & Accounting Professionals. The Reuters News division saw organic revenue of $164 million, up 5 percent.

"With our reorganization behind us and a clear focus on the future of our core business, this is the perfect time to put in place the next generation of leadership," Jim Smith said in a statement.

The company, controlled by Canada's Thomson family, said the board of directors said it approved an 8 cent per share hike in the annual dividend, to $1.52 per share.

In recent years, Thomson Reuters had cut costs and shed some businesses as it recovered from the fallout of the financial crisis in 2008.

Smith’s defining accomplishment was the sale he engineered of a 55% stake in the company's financial division in 2018 to Blackstone Group Inc, valuing the business at $20 billion. Blackstone subsequently struck a deal to sell the unit, now called Refinitiv, to the London Stock Exchange Group Plc .

Shares of Thomson Reuters have more than doubled since the Refinitiv deal, and have tripled since Smith took over as CEO in 2012.

European competition authorities are expected to rule on the London Stock Exchange's $27-billion takeover of data and analytics company Refinitiv in coming months.

With Thomson Reuters back on strong footing under Smith’s leadership, the board wanted to recruit an executive who would chart a long-term growth strategy for the company, two sources familiar with the matter said.

Hasker, who was a senior advisor at private equity firm TPG and who worked at McKinsey & Co as a media consultant, was selected by Thomson Reuters' board based on his experience in building platforms and running businesses that collect and analyse data, two sources familiar with the matter said.

At Nielsen, which is primarily known for its TV ratings measurement business, Hasker helped accelerate the company's transformation into a data and analytics firm tracking media consumption and consumer purchases, former colleagues said.

He negotiated partnerships with Facebook Inc and others to develop measurement tools at Nielsen to help advertisers identify the age, gender and location of people across the internet, one of the former colleagues said.