AOL’s Q4 Revenue Grows To $679M But Earnings Per Share of $0.43 Fall Short Of Estimates

AOL came in ahead of analyst estimates on revenue but not earnings in its fourth quarter of 2013, reporting $679 million in revenue and diluted earnings per share of 43 cents.

Analysts had predicted EPS of 46 cents per share and revenue of $656.4 million, according to Bloomberg. AOL said EPS, along with operating income and net income, were negatively affected by “a pre-tax restructuring charge of $13.2 million, largely related to a reduction in personnel, including [hyperlocal news initiative] Patch.”

“2013 was AOL’s most successful year in the last decade, and we accomplished our goal of industry level growth at scale for AOL,” said CEO Tim Armstrong (pictured) in the earnings release. “AOL’s exceptionally talented team continues to execute against our strategy and our results show meaningful progress in the most important areas of media and technology. AOL plans to invest in our market leading strategies in 2014, while we continue to grow the company.”

Revenue is up 13 percent compared to the fourth quarter of 2012, when the company reported $599.5 million in revenue, as well as EPS of 41 cents per share. That’s apparently the best revenue growth that AOL has seen in a decade.

Advertising revenue grew 23 percent to $507 million, while subscription revenue declined another 10 percent to $156.7 million. Operating income was up 5 percent, to $71.8 million, with net income up 1 percent, to $36 million.

Breaking the numbers down by the company’s segments, AOL’s Brand Group (a group that includes TechCrunch, which is owned by AOL) saw revenue increase 4 percent to $222 million, and its OIBDA (operating income before depreciation and amortization) more than quadrupled, to $35.6 million, something that AOL attributed to cutting staff and lowering marketing costs.

Meanwhile, the membership group saw revenue decline 9 percent to $209.3 million and AOL Networks revenue grew 50 percent to to $275 million.

The last month has been an eventful one for AOL, with the company announcing plans to spin out Patch, which weighed down recent earnings, as a joint venture with Hale Global (AOL will still own a minority stake ). The company also announced an agreement to acquire personalization startup Gravity — but both announcements came after the close of the quarter on December 31.

For the full 2013 fiscal year, AOL reported revenue of $2.3 billion, operating income of $190.3 million, and net income of $92.4 million.

Update 1: An earlier version of this post incorrectly compared EPS and Adjusted EPS, which dramatically overstated the gap between EPS and analyst estimates.

Update 2: During the analyst conference call, Armstrong said that AOL’s ad prices are up “double digits year-over-year”, a trend he expects to continue, because AOL is “bringing brands into places where they can convert customers and do it in a very brand-centric way.”

He also talked a bit more about the Gravity acquisition. He argued that personalization is “the next developing graph” on the Internet — in some ways, it’s the inverse of of the social graph, because it provides users with content that they personally are interested in, not what their friends are interested in. He suggested that personalizing the delivery of content could have “pricing benefits, traffic benefits, overall network effect benefits.”

Asked whether this means the online publishing process is becoming more automated, Armstrong said Gravity’s technology sorts through large backlogs of content but allows publications to “put a human editorial filter” on top of it. In fact, he pointed to TechCrunch’s integration with Gravity (which pre-dates the acquisition) as “a very human-driven editorial experience.”