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UPDATE 4-Thomson Reuters lifts 2021 sales outlook as earnings beat forecasts

·3 min read

(Adds stock reaction, analyst comment, detail on spending)

By Kenneth Li and Nick Zieminski

NEW YORK, Aug 5 (Reuters) - Thomson Reuters Corp's second quarter results beat analysts' estimates on Thursday, with higher sales across its main divisions, as it raised its annual revenue forecast.

Underscoring its outlook, which was fueled by a recovering global economy, the global news and information company said on Thursday it would buy back up to $1.2 billion of its shares.

Thomson Reuters said it is monitoring whether the spread of the Delta variant of COVID-19 is affecting its businesses, but did not expect a major impact in 2021.

"We do not think that there is a significant financial impact for our customers, and therefore for us through the rest of this year," Chief Executive Steve Hasker said, adding that the course of the pandemic was unpredictable.

The Thomson Reuters print and events businesses are among the areas most vulnerable in case of a worsening of the COVID-19 situation, Chief Financial Officer Michael Eastwood added.

Thomson Reuters, the parent company of Reuters News, said its total revenues rose 9% to $1.53 billion, compared to expectations of $1.5 billion.

Adjusted earnings per share of 48 cents also topped analyst expectations, based on data from Refinitiv, marking the fifth consecutive quarter that Thomson Reuters' adjusted earnings topped Wall Street estimates.

Although operating profit was down 14% to $316 million, this reflected one-time gains in the year-ago quarter.

The New York and Toronto-listed shares of Thomson Reuters were each up more than 3.5% after the results were published. The stock is up by more than a third this year.

The three main business divisions -- Legal Professionals, Tax & Accounting Professionals, and Corporates -- all reported higher sales, with the tax group achieving a 15% revenue gain, excluding currency fluctuations.

On that basis, the Reuters News segment saw sales up 6% to $168 million in the quarter, aided by its events business.

All the divisions are expected to show higher sales in the third quarter, and total revenue for 2021 is now seen rising 4% to 4.5%, Thomson Reuters said, marking the second increase to sales guidance this year.

"The core business that generates the lion's share of revenue and even more of the profits is pretty predictable even in difficult operating environments for most companies, and that's why investors gravitate towards this stock," said Matt Arnold, analyst at Edward Jones, referring to the legal, corporate and tax and accounting segments.

Thomson Reuters executives said the company would spend between $300 million and $350 million this year as part of an estimated $600 million planned reinvestment in the business.

The executives also said $700 million remained of a $2-billion mergers and acquisitions budget and it has a "robust" pipeline of targets in areas such as automation and small-to-medium cloud-based and software-as-services businesses.

The London Stock Exchange Group in January closed a $27-billion deal data and analytics company Refinitiv that was part of Thomson Reuters until 2018. Thomson Reuters holds a minority stake in LSE worth $7.5 billion as of Aug. 4.

(Writing by Nick Zieminski; Editing by Carmel Crimmins and Alexander Smith)