Murdoch: Dow Jones, FBN success to take time

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NEW YORK -- News Corp. chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said Friday that it will take time and patience for the just-launched Fox Business Network and the planned acquisition of Dow Jones to prove successful.

At his company's annual shareholder meeting, he also touted how his conglomerate's market value last week "exceeded all traditional peers for the first time ever" and expressed confidence that the Fox Interactive Media unit will continue to grow despite tough competition.

Asked about the costs for FBN, he flagged expected spending of $70 million this year and $150 million-$200 million over two to three years.

Also at the meeting, chairman Murdoch was up for re-election to his board seat for the first time in three years. He received 99.95% support from shareholders to serve another three-year term.

Asked if because of his age he might change his role at News Corp. to a nonexecutive board position, Murdoch said: "It is not my intention, but it will be up to the board."

News Corp. CFO David DeVoe was re-elected with similarly strong support. Three other directors were also confirmed.

Proposals submitted by shareholders that call for annual elections of all board members and that would eliminate News Corp.'s dual class of shares, which gives Murdoch a strong voting position, did not win enough support to go through.

Murdoch also said Friday that he expects that the planned acquisition of Dow Jones will be completed by year's end, with a DJ shareholder vote likely in early December.

Asked about recurring reports about opposition within DJ flagship Wall Street Journal to the deal, he said he sees no opposition. "There's an air of excitement," Murdoch said.

He reiterated growth of online assets and international expansion as the key opportunities at DJ. He also said the firm plans to launch online verticals to fill the global appetite for paid-for financial news in various sectors.

In his presentation to shareholders Friday, Murdoch lauded News Corp.'s financial momentum, highlighting the fourth consecutive year of record results recorded in its recent report for its fiscal year ended mid-year.

He also highlighted the average 14% operating income growth over the past four years and the outperformance of his conglomerate's stock compared to its media peers this year and the past five years.

Murdoch touted how his company is in sync with two key trends: globalization and digital growth.

He said News Corp.'s online revenue will reach about $1 billion this fiscal year. Previously, management had mentioned a target of more than $1 billion.

He also signaled that FIM is not focused on a possible deal with other online giants, such as a previously suggested merger of MySpace and Yahoo. Instead, he said FIM is focused on global expansion and the launch of new offers and features.

He ruled out an acquisition of Facebook as long as its suggested value stays anywhere near the currently suggested $10 billion-$15 billion and expressed confidence in MySpace's position. "None of our peers compare in sheer numbers or revenue," he said, pointing to page views and unique visitors. He also said MySpace is following a much broader strategy than Facebook, which will serve it well.

Murdoch son Lachlan, who sits on the News Corp. board, was in attendance at Friday's meeting, while DirecTV president and CEO Chase Carey, also a director, was absent due to a prior commitment, according to Murdoch.

His wife, Wendi, was in the audience as well.
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