Universal Music Group Reports 13% Quarterly Earnings Increase, Thanks to Drake, Post Malone & More

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Post Malone attends the 2018 American Music Awards at Microsoft Theater on Oct. 9, 2018 in Los Angeles.

Parent company Vivendi says it is narrowing down banks to help sell as much as half of the major record label.

The Universal Music Group reported 1.495 billion euros ($1.732 billion) in revenue for the company's third quarter ended Sept. 30, 2018, which represents a strong 13.3 percent increase from the prior year-earlier period when revenues totaled 1.319 billion euros ($1.542 billion).

For the nine-month period, UMG's revenues are reported at 4.123 billion euros ($4.939 billion), which is a 3.5 percent increase but on a constant currency basis represents a 9.1 percent change, according to parent Vivendi.

Streaming, naturally, is driving the company's good fortune, as that channel delivered 662 million euros ($767 million) for the quarter, a 37.6 percent increase from the 481 million euros ($562 million) generated in the prior year's corresponding period.

In other news, Vivendi expanded upon the prior quarter's announcement about seeking a strategic partner for UMG saying it is talking to about 15 banks, which it expects to narrow down to five or seven, who will be charged with finding the best partner for the music operation. It has previously said it expects to sell up to 50 percent of the company and the cash from that sale "may be used for a significant [Vivendi] share repurchase program through a tender offer and for potential acquisitions."

Breaking out the company's revenue by operations, Vivendi reported that the recorded music operation garnered 1.161 billion euros ($1.346 billion) a 15.9 percent increase over the 1.002 bilion euros ($1.171 billion) reported in the third quarter of 2017. Music publishing, meanwhile, totaled 266 million euros ($308.3 million), a 9.9 percent increase from the 242 million euros ($283 million) gathered in 2017's third quarter; while merchandise and other income streams totaled 73 million euros ($84.6 million), a 9.9 percent decrease from the 81 million euros ($94.7 million) those operations had produced in the year-earlier period. Inter-company eliminations totaled 5 million euros this quarter versus 6 million euros in the earlier period.

Looking at those operations for the nine-month period recorded music produced 3.282 billion euros ($3.932 billion) this year, a 4.4 percent increase from the 3.133 billion euros ($3.482 billion); while publishing totals 675 million euros ($808.7 million), a 5.1 percent increase over the 642 million euros ($711.3 million); and merchandise and other income streams totaled 180 million euros ($215.6 million), a 16.7 percent drop from the 216 million euros ($239.3 million). Inter-company eliminations totaled 14 million euros, versus 16 million euros in the earlier period.

The company said best sellers for the first nine months of 2018 included new releases from Drake, Post Malone, XXXTentacion and Migos, as well as the soundtrack release from Black Panther (Kendrick Lamar).

Vivendi also noted in its press release that for the last week of September 2018, UMG had nine out of the top 10 albums on the Billboard 200 chart in the United States. This marks the first time in nearly five years that a label group has achieved this performance, with UMG also being the group that did it back in October 2013.

For the fourth quarter, the big sellers/revenue generators are expected to be the soundtracks of A Star Is Born and Mary Poppins Returns and albums from Gregory Porter, Imagine Dragons, Jonas Blue, Kris Wu, Mumford & Sons, The 1975, the remastered Beatles White Album and more.

Looking at recorded music by revenue, offsetting somewhat the bonanza turned in by streaming, downloads garnered 116 million euros ($134.4 million) a 21.1 percent drop from the 147 million euros ($172 million) that channel had in the third quarter of 2017; while physical was down 10.2 percent to 194 million euros ($225 million) from the earlier period's 216 million euros ($252.5 million).

Percentage wise that breaks out to 57 percent streaming, 16.7 percent physical, 10 percent downloads and 16.3 percent from merchandise and other this year, versus 48 percent streaming, 21.6 percent physical, 14.7 percent downloads and 15.8 percent other last year during the third quarter.

For the nine-month period, streaming totals $1.849 billion euros ($2.215 billion), a 28.1 percent increase from the 1.443 billion euros ($1.599 billion) generated in the first nine months of 2017; physical was 563 million euros ($674.5 million), down 19.6 percent from 700 million euros ($775.6 million); downloads totaled 353 million euros ($423 million), a 29.4 percent decrease from 500 million euros ($554 million); and other totaled 517 million euros ($619.4 million), down from 500 million euros.

As a percentage that breaks out to streaming comprising 56.3 percent of profits, 17.2 percent physical, 10.8 percent downloads and 15.8 percent other. The year prior, those percentages were 45.9 percent streaming, 22.3 percent physical, 15.9 percent downloads and 15.9 percent for other.

Finally, looking at recorded music by territory, North America accounted for 1.551 billion euros ($1.858 billion), a 3.9 percent increase over 2017's nine-month total of 1.493 billion euros ($1.654 billion); Europe produced 1.04 billion euros ($1.246 billion), up 4.3 percent from 997 million euros ($1.105 billion); Asia saw revenue collections of 415 million euros ($497.2 million, up 3 percent from 403 million euros ($446.5 million); Latin America was flat at 111 million euros, although currency conversions produced $133 million this year, versus $123 million last year; and the rest of the world saw revenue grow 18.7 percent to 165 million euros ($198 million) from 139 million euros ($154 million).

For this story, Billboard used the conversion rates presented by Vivendi in its financial reports of one euro to $1.159 for the current third quarter, and one euro to $1.169 for the third quarter of last year, while for the nine-month period this year a conversation rate of one euro to $1.198 was used for 2018 results and $1.108 for 2017 results. Further note that Vivendi no longer breaks out operating revenue and other relevant financial data for the Universal Music Group on the one and third quarters during the year, now choosing to only reveal those important results twice a year, at mid-year and year end.