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(Reuters)

Viacom Slashes Dividend; Interim CEO to Leave

Industries Reuters

Viacom slashed its quarterly dividend by 50 percent on Wednesday and said interim Chief Executive Tom Dooley would leave the company.

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Viacom also said it had ended the process of seeking a minority investor for Paramount Pictures as it considers all options available to the company.

The media company, which owns cable networks Nickelodeon, MTV and Comedy Central, halved its dividend to 20 cents per share from 40 cents as it looks to pay down debt.

The move marks the first time the New York-based company has cut its payout since it split from CBS in 2006.

Viacom has been struggling to improve ratings as more younger viewers go online to watch their favorite shows.

Last month, controlling shareholder Sumner Redstone, and his daughter Shari Redstone, won the battle for control of Viacom, resulting in the departure of Viacom's former CEO Philippe Dauman.

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Dauman had long resisted cutting the dividend.

The decision to cut the dividend came after a Viacom board meeting, which included new directors brought on by the Redstones, as well as existing directors.

The Redstones had also opposed Dauman's plan to sell a 49 percent stake in Paramount. Dauman saw the sale as a way to unlock value for shareholders, who have seen their shares plummet in value in recent years.

Analysts had valued the stake at about $4 billion.

Dooley, Dauman's longtime right-hand man, took over the interim role after Dauman resigned from the top job.

Dooley will stay on through Nov. 15 to facilitate an "orderly transition".

"While there is more work to do, the actions announced today are an important first step towards realizing the value of Viacom’s exceptional assets and positioning the company for the future," Vice Chairman Shari Redstone said in a statement on Wednesday.

Viacom's board has hired Morgan Stanley and LionTree Advisors to review its capital structure as it looks for ways to shore up finances in the face of falling advertising sales.

Viacom said it expects a fourth-quarter adjusted profit of 65-70 cents per share. Analysts on average were expecting 89 cents, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

The company said it expects a programming impairment charge of $115 million in its filmed entertainment business and severance expenses in the quarter.

Viacom's shares were up 1 percent at $36.52 in morning trading on the Nasdaq.

 

(Reporting by Rishika Sadam in Bengaluru and Jessica Toonkel in New York; Editing by Saumyadeb Chakrabarty and Maju Samuel)