Television

News Corp Q3 net up 69% at $465 million

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MUMBAI: Media moghul Rupert Murdoch's News Corp marches on. The company announced its third quarter results today with net profit of $ 465 million dollars, up 69 per cent from the same time last year. Cable and satellite networks made a major contribution to the stellar performance.

The media major reported third quarter consolidated revenues of $5.2 billion, a 19 per cent increase over the $4.4 billion in the prior year, and consolidated operating income of $838 million, up 22 per cent over the $685 million a year ago, despite the inclusion of $25 million in losses from SKY Italia in the quarter. The year-on-year operating income growth was driven by double-digit increases across nearly all operating segments.Net profit for the fiscal third quarter was $465 million, an increase of $190 million over the $275 million reported in the third quarter a year ago. Net profit before other items was $460 million, an increase of $162 million over the $298 million reported in the prior year.

As regards the performance of Murdoch's pan-Asian arm Star Group, meanwhile, operating profit more than doubled on subscription and advertising gains made mainly from India.

Star, bolstered by a 12 per cent increase in revenues, more than doubled its third quarter operating income versus prior year. Revenue gains were driven primarily by advertising growth both in India, from the continued growth of Star Plus. Expansion continued in China from increased penetration of the Xing Kong channel, which has become the number one national/regional channel in the Guangdong cable market.

Overall, the TV segment showed operating income up 25 per cent as higher pricing and the strength of American Idol led the increases in advertising revenues at the broadcast network and television stations.

The other Q3 highlights were:

-- Strong advertising growth at Fox News and higher affiliate revenues at the Regional Sports Networks drive operating income up 51% at Cable Network Programming.

-- Filmed Entertainment operating income up 6% over a year ago as continued robust home entertainment sales of film and television titles match prior-year success.

-- All print businesses report double-digit earnings growth: advertising and circulation revenue gains in U.K. and Australia fuel newspapers; increased free-standing inserts page volume and higher InStore contributions lift Magazines and Inserts; array of bestsellers fuels HarperCollins.

-- SKY Italia adds 180,000 net subscribers and ends the quarter with a subscriber base of more than 2.6 million; operating losses decline to $25 million from the second quarter of this fiscal year.

Commenting on the results, chairman and chief executive Rupert Murdoch said:

"We are extremely pleased with News Corp's third quarter results, with 22 per cent operating income growth that was achieved across all of our business segments. Several assets in which we have invested heavily in recent years continue to achieve rapid growth. Our film and television production units have been buoyed by an expanding home entertainment market and our cable networks are enjoying double-digit gains on the back of advertising and affiliate growth. Simultaneously, we have maintained momentum at our established businesses with double-digit gains across our television, newspapers, magazines and inserts, and book publishing segments.

"Our unique asset balance, combined with the strong earnings growth throughout the company and the recent announcement to seek reincorporation in the United States, puts us in a great position to continue to generate value for our shareholders."

News Corp. is already effectively run from New York and generates more than 75 per cent of its revenues in the United States.

Meanwhile, Dow Jones has quoted News Corp. executives as saying they now expect 2004 operating income growth to be between 17 per cent and 19 per cent, including estimated losses from Sky Italia. The previous estimate was for growth in the low double digits.

The media conglomerate also raised expectations at its Fox Entertainment Group unit. Fox is now projected to show 20 per cent growth in operating profit before depreciation and amortization, Dow Jones quoted the executives as saying.

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