Gemstar-TV Guide shares drop on accounting concerns

By Gary Gentile The Associated Press
Wednesday April 03, 2002

LOS ANGELES — Executives of Gemstar-TV Guide International tried to calm nervous investors Tuesday as worries over its accounting practices sent its shares tumbling more than 37 percent. 

In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Monday, Gemstar said it recorded $107.6 million in revenue over the past 29 months from one company even though none of that money has been paid. 

Gemstar said the revenue is owed by Scientific Atlanta, which makes cable television set-top boxes. The companies are locked in a patent dispute that is expected to drag on another three months after a judge with the International Trade Commission delayed his decision, expected last week, until June. 

A separate disclosure that $20 million in advertising revenue from Gemstar’s interactive program guide was non-cash caused two analysts to question Gemstar’s assumptions about how fast revenue from its critically important IPG business is growing. 

That news, combined with concerns over an abrupt management change announced last week, sent shares tumbling $5.35 to close at $9.01 on the Nasdaq Stock Market. 

The two accounting procedures were approved by auditors and do not alter the company’s business model or expectations, Gemstar chief executive officer Henry Yuen told analysts in a conference call. 

“We do not have any accounting practice issues at all here,” Yuen said. “Our financials were filed with a clean opinion from our auditors and therefore, in our opinion and theirs, the recognition of revenues are reasonable and fair and appropriate.” 

Yuen emphasized that Gemstar is signing up new advertisers for its guide, including major broadcast and cable networks. 

Last week, the company reported that advertising revenue increased 339 percent in 2001, from $23.1 million to $101.4 million. Tuesday, Yuen said that reducing that amount by $20 million, which came in the form of bartered advertising time, does not alter the company’s outlook. 

“Even if that amount is taken out, there is still huge growth,” Yuen said. “We actually wanted to build a real new media and we did that. The viability of this new media is absolutely not in question.” 

Earlier Tuesday, analysts questioned Gemstar’s “aggressive accounting,” although John Corcoran, who follows the company for CIBC World Markets, said Gemstar did not violate accounting rules. Still, he questioned the wisdom of the company’s decisions. 

“The additional disclosure ... reveals accounting treatment that could have significant implications for the company going forward,” Corcoran said in a note he issued Tuesday. 

Corcoran downgraded the stock Tuesday and lowered his earnings estimates, citing the stock’s volatility. Jessica Reif Cohen at Merrill Lynch maintained her “strong buy” rating, saying Tuesday’s stock slide was “overblown.” 

Scientific Atlanta allowed its license agreement with Gemstar to expire in 1999. Gemstar subsequently sued the company for continuing to ship boxes that contained an interactive programming guide Gemstar claims is based on its patents. 

Gemstar said it decided to continue to log revenue on its books based on its expectation that it will win its lawsuit and Scientific Atlanta will have to pay those amounts.