21st Century Fox Stock Rises After Posting Mixed Quarterly Earnings

Courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox
20th Century Fox's 'Deadpool'

Executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch leads off the company's conference call with remarks about Fox News, now run by his father, Rupert, after Roger Ailes stepped down amid accusations of sexual harassment.

21st Century Fox on Wednesday reported mixed quarterly financial results, with revenue in all of its segments rising while operating income at its filmed entertainment segment dropped significantly due to theatrical releasing costs associated with X-Men: Apocalypse, Independence Day: Resurgence, Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates and Ice Age: Collision Course.

The company run by James, Lachlan and Rupert Murdoch earned 45 cents per share after adjustments on revenue of $6.65 billion. It was expected to earn 37 cents per share on $6.68 billion in revenue in its fiscal fourth quarter.

In after-hours trading, shares of 21st Century Fox were rising 3 percent after having risen 1 percent in the normal session to $27.04.

The conglomerate has been roiled in controversy since former Fox News Channel host Gretchen Carlson accused Roger Ailes, the entity's then CEO, of sexual harassment, causing him to step down and be replaced by Rupert Murdoch.

Executive chairman Lachlan Murdoch addressed the situation at the top of a conference call on Wednesday.

"Let me first say a few words about Fox News, which has been the news over recent weeks," he said. "We have moved quickly and decisively to protect the business, to protect its employees, and to protect the unique and important voice Fox News broadcasts."

He called the existing team "extraordinarily strong" and said Fox News "is on track to have its highest-rated year ever."

He said Wednesday that no significant changes are afoot at Fox News yet, beyond transitioning leadership at the top, from Ailes to Rupert Murdoch.

The company's cable network programming segment dominated, as usual, with revenue of $3.9 billion, up from $3.6 billion in the same quarter last year. Like filmed entertainment, though, cable network programming took a step back in operating income, from $1.22 billion a year ago to $1.21 billion this time. Rising affiliate revenue and ad sales weren't enough to counteract rising costs for sports rights for various channels and for election coverage at Fox News.

The television segment posted just over $1 billion in revenue, up from $987 million, and operating income rose 27 percent to $144 million, courtesy of higher retransmission consent fees for the Fox Broadcast Network.

"It's clear, we have work to do at the film studio," CEO James Murdoch said during the conference call Wednesday, noting the precipitous drop in operating income to $164 million compared to $269 million a year ago at the filmed entertainment segment.

He said, though, that he is "energized" by the upcoming slate that includes Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children, War for the Planet of the Apes, Kingsman 2, Assassin's Creed, Hidden Figures and The Birth of a Nation.

The company also said Wednesday it has boosted its dividend by 6 cents to an expected 36 cents per share annually, and it also boosted its $5 billion stock repurchase program by an additional $3 billion.