News Corp 3Q beats Street on pay TV, ‘Pi’

Wednesday, May 8th, 2013 | Finance News

LOS ANGELES (AP) — News Corp. beat Wall Street's forecast for the January-March quarter, helped by growing revenue from pay TV networks including Fox News Channel and FX, and the hit 20th Century Fox movie "Life of Pi."

The company controlled by billionaire Rupert Murdoch also said Wednesday that it benefited from raising its stake in satellite TV company Sky Deutschland. It now holds a majority stake.

News Corp.'s net income jumped to $2.85 billion, or $1.22 per share, from $937 million, or 38 cents per share, a year ago.

Excluding items such as the one-time $2.1 billion profit related to Sky Deutschland, adjusted earnings came to 36 cents per share, a penny better than expected by analysts surveyed by FactSet.

Revenue rose 14 percent to $9.54 billion, also better than the $9.14 billion expected by analysts.

The company's stock rose $1.14, or 3.6 percent, to $33 in after-hours trading after the results were released.

News Corp. is at a major turning point in its history, which traces back to a small newspaper company in Australia started by Murdoch's father. It plans to split into two publicly traded companies by the end of June — one company holding its TV and movie properties to be known as 21st Century Fox, and a smaller entity focused on newspapers and publishing that will keep the name News Corp.

At the same time, it is launching a new national sports channel in the U.S. on Aug. 17 called Fox Sports 1, which it hopes to build into a competitor to The Walt Disney Co.'s ESPN. It also plans to launch FXX, another pay TV channel under its FX brand aimed at 18-34-year-olds.

Addressing analysts' concerns about the cost of those initiatives, News Corp. chief operating officer Chase Carey said the expense of launching the networks, plus some international channels, would be "a couple hundred million (dollars) and change" in their first year of operation.

As the company nears the split, investors are awaiting news of the strategies for operating both.

Carey said the company will hold an investor day in New York on May 28 to address what the plan is for the publishing company, while an investor day for the entertainment spinoff is planned for early August.

"Our separation is our top priority," Carey said.

Investors have long hankered for the split, as most see the publishing unit as a drag on earnings and revenues. Since the split was announced last June, News Corp.'s stock is up 50 percent.