Television

News Corp's Q1 Net soars 27 % to $ 536 million

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MUMBAI: Media mogul Rupert Murdoch must be one happy man. If the brilliant first quarter results his News Corp has just delivered were not enough, that his choice for US president George W Bush has so convincingly won a second term in office must have given him additional reason to crow.

News Corp has announced a 27 per cent increase in its first-quarter (ending 30 September) Net, helped by growth in advertising at the Fox News Channel and the Fox broadcast network, as well as a strong performance from the company's newspapers in the UK and Australia.

Net profit stood at $536 million as against $422 million in the corresponding quarter last year. Net income was up to $536 million from $422 million a year ago. Sales were up 12 per cent at $5.19 billion from last year's $4.6 billion.

A 12 per cent jump has also been seen in the consolidated operating income at $805 million from $719 million last year.

News Corp will also be relocating its headquarters and main listing to the United States from Australia for which it has just received court clearance.

Among the new initiatives in the pipeline are plans for a financial news channel. Negotiations are currently on with distributors to carry the channel, Murdoch said in a conference call. ``We are planning to do, certainly, a top business news channel some time in the future,'' News Corp's chairman and CEO has been quoted in media reports as saying.

STAR'S STOCK CONTINUES TO RISE

News Corp's broadcast television business rose 30 per cent to $233 million from $179 million on higher ad prices and lower costs for prime-time programs. A significant contribution came in from Asia, with the Star Group reporting higher operating profits. Star's revenues were up 14 per cent on the back of increased ad sales out of India and China as well.

Meanwhile, billionaire cable TV investor John Malone's Liberty Media has said it may buy $1.5 billion of News Corp.'s voting stock in an equity swap deal with Merrill Lynch in April 2005. Liberty said in a statement that it had entered into a transaction involving 84.7 million shares.

Reports say that if the deal goes through, it could double Liberty's current 9.15 per cent voting stake in the company, potentially paving the way for a challenge to the Murdoch family's hold on News Corp.

Murdoch, however, appeared unperturbed. ``I think it's an endorsement of the company,'' he said. ``I say that quite sincerely. I'm not losing any sleep over it.''

News Corp. is the world's fifth largest media group and owns the Fox network, 20th Century Fox film studios and a host of newspaper and satellite assets including BSkyB and DirecTV.

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