News Corp reports $162 million net for Sept. quarter

MUMBAI: Rupert Murdoch's News Corp yesterday reported first quarter consolidated revenues of $3.8 billion (1 July to 30 June financial), a 12% increase over the $3.4 billion in the prior year and consolidated operating income of $548 million, up 51 per cent over the $362 million a year ago.

The year-on-year growth was driven primarily by substantial increases in the television and cable network programming segments, a company statement says. Net profit for the fiscal first quarter was $162 million, an increase of $89 million over the $73 million reported in the prior year. Net profit before other items was $162 million compared to $83 million reported in the first quarter a year ago. This is important because such "special charges" ($10 million last year) have reduced earnings in many of the company's previous periods.

With the events of 11 September 2001 well behind it, News Corp's US TV operations posted much stronger earnings, fueled by a resurgence in advertising and subscriber gains.

News Corp's television segment reported first quarter operating income of $188 million, up $136 million versus the same period a year ago, reflecting an 81 per cent profit increase at the Fox Television Stations and an 82 per cent improvement at the Fox Broadcasting Company, the statement says.

At the Fox Broadcasting Company, prime-time ratings in the US were up 13 per cent over the prior year among adults 18-49, driven by the record-breaking performance of American Idol (expected in India early next year), which was the summer's top-rated series on any network.

In Asia, Star's operating results continue to improve, with losses declining 27 per cent compared to last year. The gains were fueled by 15 per cent revenue growth primarily from subscription and advertising revenue increases, and mainly on the back of the exemplary performance by the jewel in News Corp's Asian crown - Star Plus in India. Industry reports say as much as 80 per cent of Star's income in Asia is being generated out of India.

Star's revenue gains were partially offset by costs associated with developing new platforms (DTH and FM radio in operations in India among them) and expanding existing channels as Star continues to drive distribution and ratings across the region.

The overall gains were achieved despite lower operating income at the company's Fox movie studio and its newspapers in the UK. The company's magazine division posted a modest gain in operating income, mostly due to its coupon business, as did its HarperCollins book publishing unit.

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