News Corp net profit up 9% at $ 2.3 billion for 06 fiscal

MUMBAI: Rupert Murdoch's media powerhouse News Corp has reported record numbers with full year net profit standing at $ 2.314 billion. This marks an increase of nine per cent over the $ 2.128 billion it achieved in fiscal 2005.

Net profit for the quarter ended 30 June 2006 was $ 852 million, an increase of 19 per cent over the $ 717 million achieved in the corresponding quarter of 2005.

Revenues for the year stood at $25.3 billion, up 6 per cent from last year's $23.9 billion.

The full year operating profit growth reflects increased contributions from nearly every operating segment led by 23 per cent growth at cable network programming and a $212 million improvement at Sky Italia.

On the television side, the stellar performers were the Fox network in the US and Asian arm Star Group. Star’s fourth quarter and full year operating profit increased by 10 per cent and 12 per cent respectively versus comparable periods a year ago. Ad revenues, mainly from India, drove total revenue growth. Ad gains were led by weekend programming initiatives at Star Plus and by the growth of Star One and Star Gold.

Other highlights include
• Formed Fox Interactive Media and acquired several rapidly growing internet properties, including, whose traffic has more than doubled since the acquisition in September 2005.
• Completed sale of investments in Innova, a Mexican DTH platform, for $285 million, TSL Education Ltd business for $395 million and Sky Radio for $215 million.

Commenting on another powerhouse performance from his media conglomerate, chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said, “Our fiscal 2006 financial performance once again demonstrates News Corporation’s ability to deliver superior near-term results while keeping our eye firmly focussed on the long-term with smart, strategic investments that we expect will accelerate our growth well into the future. We generated our fourth consecutive year of record operating profits with increases at nearly every one of our diverse segments; at the same time, we leveraged our strong balance sheet by investing in businesses uniquely positioned in the expanding digital world.

“The success of our existing businesses was highlighted by Sky Italia’s first full year of profits -- adding 513,000 subscribers over the past 12 months the broadcast network’s improved financial position -- translating another ratings title into higher advertising revenues; the continued rapid growth of our established and burgeoning cable channels; and finally, by the considerable increase in contributions from DirecTV.

“Longer term, we are intently focussed on developing ways not only to monetise our acquired internet assets, but also on how to exploit our vast content libraries as broadband access proliferates. From aggressively growing advertising across MySpace’s now nearly 100 million registered users to providing on-demand content to DirecTV consumers, we are keen on maximizing whatever opportunities technology provides. Our proven ability in taking advantage of new platforms and the momentum we continue to generate at our established businesses gives us great confidence as we head into fiscal 2007.”

The television segment reported fourth quarter operating profit of $403 million, an increase of $59 million, or 17 per cent, versus the same period a year ago, and full year operating profit of $1.0 billion, an increase of eight per cent over fiscal 2005. Both the quarter and full year primarily reflect higher contributions from the Fox and Star, while the quarter also includes growth at the Fox Television Stations.

At the Fox Broadcasting Company (FBC), fourth quarter and full year operating results improved dramatically versus fiscal 2005 as ratings momentum and higher pricing drove primetime advertising revenue growth. The fourth quarter results also included lower programming and promotion costs versus a year ago which included the launch of Family Guy and American Dad. For the full year, programming costs increased on higher license fees for several returning series, including American Idol and 24, which, along with House, led FBC to finish as the top-rated network among Adults 18-49 this past broadcast season. Additionally, fiscal 2005 included a loss associated with the broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIX.

Fox Television Stations’ (FTS) fourth quarter operating profit increased slightly from the same period a year ago as FTS delivered record market share on primetime ratings strength and the continued success of local news.

For the full year, operating profit declined by four per cent versus fiscal 2005, primarily as a result of higher production costs from the local news expansion. Despite softness in the overall advertising market, lower political spending and the benefit a year ago from FBC’s broadcast of Super Bowl XXXIX, revenues for the year were in-line with a year ago as FTS generated market share gains with a stronger prime-time line-up and continued success in local newscasts.

The film segment reported fourth quarter operating profit of $200 million, up 83 per cent from the $109 million reported in the same period a year ago and record full year operating profit of $1.1 billion, up slightly from 2005. The current quarter results primarily reflect strong worldwide theatrical and home entertainment revenues, while full year results primarily include increased worldwide theatrical, pay-TV and free-TV contributions as well as higher syndication and home entertainment contributions from Twentieth Century Fox Television (TCFTV).

Fourth quarter film results were largely driven by the worldwide theatrical success of Ice Age: The Meltdown, which has grossed over $640 million in box office to date, and by the home entertainment performances of The Family Stone, Big Momma’s House 2 and Cheaper By the Dozen 2. The current quarter also included the initial results and releasing costs for several successful theatrical releases including The Devil Wears Prada, which has grossed over $110 million in the US to date, and X-Men: The Last Stand, which opened to the highest domestic box office ever for a Memorial Day weekend and has grossed over $440 million in worldwide box office to date.

For the full year, record film results were primarily driven by strong worldwide theatrical releases including Ice Age: The Meltdown, the Oscar winner Walk the Line, Fantastic Four and X-Men: The Last Stand and by the worldwide home entertainment performances of Robots, Walk the Line, Fantastic Four, Hide and Seek and Star Wars Episode 3: Revenge of the Sith.

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