Buoyed by the expansion of the US financial services labour force, Reuters is forecasting a lower-than-expected decline in subscriber sales of just 1.5% for the first quarter of 2005.
Shares in the global news and information group opened at 400 pence as Reuters bested analyst expectations for a modest two per cent decline in core recurring revenues. By early morning the stock had slipped to 392.75, 11 pence up on the overnight close of 381.75 pence.
The 1.5% forecast is a dramatic improvement on Q1 sales data for the previous two years. Recurring revenues dropped 8.4% in the first quarter of 2004 and by 9.1% in 2003.
Reuters' CEO Tom Glocer says he's budgeting for 2005 recurring revenue growth for the first time since 2001. "I am pleased that our steady progress toward positive revenues remains on track," he says.
While subscriber cancellations exceeded new sales in the fourth quarter, net cancellations showed a considerable improvement compared to the equivalent quarter in 2003, says Glocer, reflecting a continuing emphasis on product upgrades and customer service improvements.
The vendor has also been boosted by a recovery in recruitment at US investment banks. The US securities industry workforce was four per cent larger in December than a year earlier, the Labour Department said last week.
Reuters' chief rival Bloomberg meanwhile, has insisted the company is not for sale, dampening speculation that Michael Bloomberg, who founded the business and retains a 72% stake, was looking to cash in his holding. Bloomberg, who is running for re-election as New York mayor, aroused interest in his plans when he told a public meeting recently that he will eventually "sell because if I don't my estate will have to".
A spokesman for the business points out that the mayor's comments were in the context of long-term estate planning, and did not reflect any immediate plans.