Liberty Overtakes Disney as Most Profitable Media Conglomerate

1:02 PM PST 03/20/2014 by Paul Bond
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Liberty Media's John Malone

SNL Kagan says Liberty's fortunes soared in 2013 due to a savvy investment in SiriusXM Radio.

With a $142 billion market capitalization, Wall Street has determined that the Walt Disney Co. is the most valuable traditional media conglomerate on the planet. But, according to a report released Thursday, it is no longer the most profitable one.

That honor now belongs to Liberty Media, in part due to its investment in SiriusXM Radio.

Disney's net income in 2013 rose 7.5 percent to $6.6 billion while Liberty's soared 537 percent to $9 billion, SNL Kagan said Thursday. Disney's mediocre improvement in net income, in fact, caused it to drop to third place, as 21st Century Fox also showed a meteoric surge of 434 percent to $7.3 billion in net income, despite having spun out of News Corp at the tail end of that company's fiscal year.

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Disney was 2012's net-income champion, but in 2013 several factors got in the way of it repeating that feat, including a $321 million charge for litigation and $214 million in charges related to impairment and restructuring, according to Kagan.

Liberty, meanwhile, scored a significant victory by amassing millions of shares of SiriusXM and recording a whopping $7.5 billion gain on that investment in the first quarter of 2013.

As for 21st Century Fox, it benefited from News Corp's decision to boost its stake in Sky Deutschland to 55 percent. When News Corp split into two companies, the Sky Deutschland stake went to 21st Century Fox.

Rounding out the Top 6 on the SNL Kagan list are Time Warner, which posted a 26 percent gain in net income in 2013 to $3.7 billion; Viacom, up 21 percent to $2.4 billion; and CBS, up 19 percent to $1.9 billion.

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