By Jennifer Saba
(Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp's quarterly results beat analysts' expectations as the company racked up strong software sales to tax professionals, accountants and financial institutions looking to comply with government regulations.
The company's Tax & Accounting unit posted a 31 percent rise in first-quarter revenue to $310 million, citing growth in the United States and Latin America and through acquisitions like property and real estate tax software Manatron.
While Thomson Reuters' business serving the financial industry remained under pressure from layoffs and other cost cuts at banks, its overall results were lifted by the Tax & Accounting and Legal divisions.
The global news and information provider reported on Tuesday that first-quarter adjusted earnings per share rose to 44 cents, up from 37 cents a year earlier and above the average analyst forecast of 41 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S. Shares rose 1.8 percent to $30.37 in New York trading.
"Everything seems to be working in line or better than expected and that is really good news," said Claudio Aspesi, an analyst with Sanford Bernstein.
Thomson Reuters said first-quarter revenue at its Financial & Risk division, which serves financial institutions, grew 1 percent to $1.8 billion, as declines in sales to traders and wealth managers were offset by increases in sales to risk and compliance customers, as well as acquisitions.
"I am really pleased with how the team has responded and the progress we are making inside the company," Thomson Reuters Chief Executive James Smith said. "The biggest challenges right now are outside the company, the macroeconomic environment, particularly in Europe."
EIKON IN 16,000 DESKTOPS
Total revenue from ongoing businesses grew 4 percent before currency changes to $3.19 billion, above the analysts' average forecast of $3.13 billion.
The legal unit, which includes WestlawNext and competes with Reed Elsevier, Wolters Kluwer and Bloomberg, reported 3 percent revenue growth to $777 million.
One of Thomson Reuters' key financial products, Eikon, has struggled to gain traction with customers. The company, which competes with Bloomberg, FactSet, Interactive Data Corp and News Corp's Dow Jones for financial and banking customers, said that Eikon desktops now total over 16,000, up 30 percent from the fourth quarter.
Smith said net sales for Financial & Risk in the first quarter were a "slight improvement" over the fourth quarter. Revenue is a lagging indicator for Thomson Reuters since its subscription sales are based on annual or multi-year contracts.
"There was no further reset on the Financial & Risk business -- the turnaround continues," Evercore Partners analyst Doug Arthur said, noting that and the rise in legal revenue were the two highlights of the results.
The first quarter reflects a new reporting structure that was put in place after a major reorganization resulted in the exit of several high-level executives including former CEO Tom Glocer.
Smith, who headed the company's former Professional division, stepped into the role of chief executive at the beginning of the year.
The new organization was aimed at simplifying the company created by Thomson Corp's acquisition of Reuters Group Plc in 2008. The company now reports revenue in the following units: Financial & Risk, Legal, Tax & Accounting, Intellectual Property & Science, and Corporate & Other.
Thomson Reuters said underlying operating profit rose 2 percent to $545 million. Underlying operating profit margin fell to 17.1 percent, from 17.4 percent a year ago, due to higher depreciation and amortization from new product launches, the company said.
The company affirmed its 2012 forecasts, including revenue growth in the "low-single digits."
Last week the company announced the sale of its Healthcare business for $1.25 billion.
On the Toronto exchange, the shares rose 1.1 percent to C$30.00.
(Reporting By Jennifer Saba, editing by Tiffany Wu)