Q2-2014: News Corp reports flat results due to lower advertising, forex; EPS down

BENGALURU: A 3.9 per cent drop in advertising revenue and negative foreign exchange (forex) impacted News Corporation (News Corp., company) numbers for the quarter ended 31 December, 2014 (Q2-2015, current quarter).

Total revenues went up marginally by 2.8 per cent to US$ 2280 million in the current quarter from US$ 2238 million in the corresponding year ago quarter (Q2-2014, quarter ended 31 December, 2013). The company says that the majority of the revenue increase reflects strength in the Book Publishing and Digital Real Estate Services segments.

News Corp adds that Australian newspapers revenues declined 8 per cent due to negative foreign currency fluctuations and modest advertising revenue declines. Total News and Information Services segment advertising revenues declined 9 per cent, driven primarily by weaknesses in the UK print advertising market, lower revenue from free-standing insert products at News America Marketing and negative foreign currency fluctuations.

Net income available to News Corp stockholder was down 5.3 per cent in Q3-2015 to US$ 142 million  from US$ 150 million in the corresponding year ago quarter resulting in a 7.7 per cent drop in basic and diluted EPS to US$ 0.24 in Q2-2015 from the US0.26 in Q2-2014. Adjusted was US$ 0.26 compared to US$ 0.31 in the prior year.

The Company reported almost flat second quarter total segment EBITDA of US$ 328 million compared to US$ 327 million in the prior year quarter. The company says that these results include US$ 13 million and US$ 19 million in fees and costs ? net of indemnification ? related to the U K Newspaper Matters in the three months ended 31 December, 2014 and 2013, respectively, as well as US$ 16 million of one-time transaction costs in the second quarter of fiscal 2015 related to the acquisition of Move, Inc. (Move). Strong revenue performances in the Book Publishing and Digital Real Estate Services, combined with lower expenses related to the capitalization of Amplify Learning?s software development costs, which were offset by the above mentioned declines at the News and Information Services segment and negative foreign currency fluctuations. Adjusted total segment EBITDA increased 4 per cent compared to the prior year.

Company Speak

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson said, ?The development of the new News Corp continued apace in the second quarter as we began the transformation of the just acquired, which has certainly exceeded our expectations in traffic growth in recent weeks. We were clearly buffeted by currency headwinds, but the strength of our brands, the breadth of our reach, the intensifying focus on cost discipline and the power of our portfolio meant that we saw continued growth in revenue and increasing upside in our long-term prospects. Our digital personality has evolved quickly, with having given us a new and influential platform, digital subscribers on the rise at our news mastheads, robust growth at REA, and healthy e-book sales at HarperCollins. The vision we outlined for the company is becoming a reality, and while we have much work ahead, the foundations we have laid over the past 18 months put us in a strong position for enduring success and increased shareholder value.? 

Segment Results

News and Information services

This segment had witnessed revenue decline in the previous quarter (Q1-2015). In Q2-2015 also revenue declined 5.5 per cent to US$ 1523 million from US$ 1612 million in Q2-2014. This segment?s EBIDTA declined 15.3 per cent to US$ 216 million from US$ 255 million in the year ago quarter.

The declines mentioned above were partially offset by higher advertising revenues at Dow Jones, across the Wall Street Journal franchise. Circulation and subscription revenues declined 3 per cent, due to the decline in professional information business revenues at Dow Jones and lower print circulation volume, partially offset by higher subscription pricing, cover price increases says News Corp.

Book Publishing

Book publishing segment revenues increased 19.9 per cent to US$ 469 million from the US$ 391 million reported for the year ago quarter. This segment?s EBIDTA increased 13.2 per cent to US$ 77 million in the current quarter as compared to the US$ 68 million in Q2-2014.

News Corp informs that revenue growth in this segment was driven by the inclusion of the results of Harlequin Enterprises Limited (Harlequin) and strong performances in Children?s and General Books resulting from higher backlist sales during the holiday season, which largely offset the lower revenues from the Divergent series. E-book revenues improved by 14 per cent versus the prior year period, driven by Harlequin, and represented 17 per cent of consumer revenues.

Cable Network Programming

Revenue from this segment increased marginally by 1.8 per cent to US$ 112 million in the current quarter from US$ 110 in the year ago quarter primarily due to higher affiliate pricing and increased subscribers says the company. Segment EBIDTA was correspondingly up 1.9 per cent to US$ 54 million from US$ 53 million in Q2-2014. The company attributes increase in EBIDTA to higher revenues, partially offset by negative foreign currency fluctuations and higher programming rights and production costs.

Digital Real Estate Services

This segment reported a whopping 49.5 per cent increase in revenue from US$ 103 million in the year ago quarter to US$ 154 million in the current quarter. News Corp says that the increase was primarily driven by the inclusion of the results of Move, coupled with higher residential listing depth product penetration and higher pricing at REA Group Limited (REA Group). However, this segment?s EBIDTA increased marginally by 3.6 per cent in the current quarter to US$ 57 million from US$ 55 million in Q2-2014. The company says that increase in revenue was partially offset by US$16 million of one-time transaction costs related to the acquisition of Move. Excluding the contributions from Move, divestitures and foreign currency fluctuations, Adjusted revenues and Adjusted Segment EBITDA increased 26 per cent and 38 per cent, respectively, compared to the prior year.

Digital Education

This segment reported flat revenue in Q2-2015 and Q2-2014 at US$ 22 million as higher subscription revenues at Amplify Insight and higher revenues at Amplify Access were offset by lower Amplify Insight consulting revenues and lower revenues at Amplify Learning, related to the early grade print and hybrid learning products says the company. Segment EBIDTA improved 45.5 per cent to a negative US$ 24 million in the current quarter from a negative US$ 45 million in the year ago quarter primarily due to the impact of the capitalization of Amplify Learning?s software development costs of US$ 14 million and lower expenses.


News Corp explains that Segment EBITDA in the quarter improved by US$ 8 million compared to the prior year, primarily due to lower fees and costs, net of indemnification, related to the claims and investigations arising out of certain conduct at The News of the World (the U.K. Newspaper Matters) of approximately $ US6 million. The net expense related to the U.K. Newspaper Matters was US$ 13 million for the three months ended 31 December, 2014 as compared to US$ 19 million for the three months ended 31 December, 2013.

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