News Corp. Posts Strong Earnings in a Politically Tumultuous Quarter

1:23 PM PST 11/02/2011 by Paul Bond
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Rupert Murdoch

UPDATED: Dinged by charges related to a well-publicized newspaper scandal, however, the company run by Rupert Murdoch records a smaller profit.

Strong results at film and television helped propel News Corp. to impressive revenue in its fiscal first quarter of 2012 despite distractions from scandals that the company has had to deal with.

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News Corp. said Wednesday that revenue rose 7 percent to $7.96 billion while analysts expected the company to post revenue that rose 4 percent to $7.4 billion.

The company didn't escape the negative effects of the News of The World phone-hacking debacle, though, as charges associated with it caused net income to fall 5 percent to  $738 million, which translated to an adjusted 32 cents per share and also exceeded what analysts had anticipated.

News Corp. shares rose 2 percent on Wednesday to $17.36 and were up another 2 percent after the closing bell.

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The conglomerate run by Rupert Murdoch posted rising operating income in all of its segments except one: publishing, where a $91 million charge was taken for shutting down News of the World, causing that unit to record a 38 percent drop in operating income to $110 million.

The company's most profitable segment, cable network programming, boasted an 18 percent rise in operating income to $775 million. The company said its Fox News Channel marked its 56th consecutive quarter of  growth in operating profit, and its FX Network finished the quarter as the third most watched basic cable network in prime time among adults 18-49.

The filmed entertainment segment posted a 12 percent boost in operating income to $347 million due to $450 million in worldwide box office for Rise of the Planet of the Apes and big home entertainment sales for Rio and X-Men: First Class.

Television marked a 27 percent rise in operating income to $133 million on a robust ad market for the 2011 Emmy Awards broadcast. Dragging down results in the segment, though, were marketing costs for launching the shows Terra Nova, The New Girl and X-Factor.

Operating income for the direct broadcast satellite segment surged 45 percent to $119 million due to lower programming costs.

Murdoch skipped a conference call with analysts and journalists on Wednesday, leaving the task of fielding questions to COO Chase Carey and CFO David DeVoe.

Carey noted that "there's not a lot more to say" about the ongoing investigation into the News of the World scandal and that he was anxious to "shift gears to talk about our operations," for a change.

He said that James Murdoch, the company's deputy COO and a board member, wasn't going anywhere despite a recent rebuke in the form of 35 percent of the company's shareholders voting against him.

Carey also put to rest speculation that News Corp. was interested in purchasing the Los Angeles Dodgers baseball team. "We're not buying the Dodgers," he said.

 

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