Thomson Reuters riding out global market turmoil with premium workflow data subscriptions

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Jasper Jackson, Reuters, TheMediaBriefing Experts' Blog, B2B Media, Digital Media

Global financial crisis? Government regulation and bailouts stifling Wall Street and Square Mile captains of industry? Sounds like a disaster for the world's biggest financial information.

But Reuters is holding firm, proving that specialist information to oil the wheels of capitalism, law, tax and the media is still very much in demand, with adjusted EBITDA up five percent to $3.5 billion (£2.2 billion) for 2012. Revenue was down four percent to $13.28 billion (£8.53billion) in the same period. 

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Coverage of the results on Wednesday tended to focus on its Finance and Risk segment, which accounts for more than half the company's revenues and was flat for the year.

But Reuters has otherwise ridden the storm relatively well, and much of that is down to the strength and adaptability of its professional information services which recorded strong performance across the board:

-- Tax and Accounting: Revenues up 15 percent to $1.21 billion (£777 billion) driven by acquisitions and strong growth in software sales. 

-- Legal: 2012 revenues up to $3.29 billion (£2.11 billion) up 2 percent on 2011 - driven by growth in business solutions, but offset by declining research and print revenues.  

-- Intellectual Property and Science: Revenues up five percent to $894 million (£574 million) driven by strong nine percent subscription growth. 


The key themes running through all these businesses is a focus on organic growth and acquisitions targeted at high-growth territories and adjacent markets. 

In the legal segment, including Westlaw and US print titles, saw revenue decline two percent during the year, but that was in part offset by an eight percent increase in revenues at in its global category. We profiled Practical Law, bought by Thomson Reuters last year, here.

As for software and subscriptions, just like with every other serious B2B information player these days, it's all about getting the user workflow. 

Speaking on an earnings call today, CFO Stephane Bello said many companies are cutting back on discretionary and transactional costs in the face of uncertain financial conditions, but they are less likely to abandon subscription services that are built into their day-to-day activities.

As Thomson Reuters CEO Jim Smith says: "This subscription business takes out peaks and valleys and makes us more stable."

And what about the media business, which incorporates all those expensive journalists, editors and bureaus that most of the public would associate with Reuters? They barely got a mention in the results and it's easy to see the reason why. 

The Corporate & Other part of Reuters - which includes the media segment - generated just $331 million (£212 million) in revenues for the quarter and an operating loss of $270 million (£173 million).

That operating loss is largely down to the fact corporate costs contributing to other parts of the business fall on the division. However, lumping media in with those costs is rather indicative of how muych less signficant it is compared to other business ares. 

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