What happened

Shares of Meredith (NYSE:MDP) soared 24% today after the company reported strong fiscal first-quarter earnings. The results crushed analyst expectations for both the top and bottom lines.

So what

Revenue in the fiscal first quarter was $693.5 million, ahead of the $660 million in sales that Wall Street was looking for. That resulted in adjusted earnings per share of $1.04, which was dramatically higher than the consensus estimate of just $0.17 per share in adjusted profits. The media company, which publishes prominent magazines like People and Entertainment Weekly, said advertising revenue was hurt by the COVID-19 pandemic but was optimistic about that industry's recovery.

Pile of magazines next to a coffee cup and small potted plant

Image source: Getty Images.

"While the COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact total Company revenues, sequentially our year-over-year performance has continued to recover," CEO Tom Harty said in a statement. "Our efforts to enhance financial flexibility and control costs have produced tangible results as demonstrated by our growth in operating profit and free cash flow."

Now what

Meredith did not provide guidance for next quarter but management highlighted the company's strong liquidity position. Meredith finished Q1 with $201 million in cash, up significantly from $27 million a year ago. Additionally, the company has an existing revolver that it has not yet tapped.

"We continue to see positive momentum in our efforts to improve cash flow, helped by strong political advertising demand," CFO Jason Frierott said on the conference call with analysts. The company says that its top priority is reducing debt.

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