Fox Beats by a Nickel

The News Corp. unit cites strong growth at its cable networks.
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Rupert Murdoch's

Fox

(FOX) - Get Report

U.S. entertainment business posted a blowout fourth quarter Wednesday.

The New York-based unit of Australia's

News Corp.

(NWS) - Get Report

, which also posted

stronger-than-expected earnings after the close Wednesday, cited strong results from its film and cable TV units as well as at its fast-growing Fox News Channel operation.

For the fourth quarter ended June 30, Fox earned $323 million, or 33 cents a share. That's up from the year-ago $258 million, or 29 cents a share, and a nickel ahead of the Thomson First Call analyst estimate.

Revenue jumped to $3.2 billion from $2.8 billion a year earlier, handily surpassing the $3 billion Wall Street estimate. Operating income before depreciation and amortization rose 25% from a year ago to $630 million.

"We are extremely pleased with our progress during the past year not only for the record financial results we delivered but for the strategic direction we continued to follow," CEO Rupert Murdoch said. "Success begets success and we are confident that the momentum we generated in fiscal 2004 positions us to deliver superior returns in the year ahead."

At the Fox Television Stations, fourth-quarter operating income before depreciation and amortization rose 13% over the same quarter a year ago, reflecting strong prime-time advertising revenue increases led by the success of

American Idol

and local news, partially offset by prime-time ratings weakness at UPN.

Cable network programming reported fourth-quarter operating income before depreciation and amortization of $165 million, up 56% from a year ago, reflecting the absence of losses from the Los Angeles Dodgers, which were sold during the third quarter.

The Fox News Channel reported operating income growth of 68% for the quarter, while other cable channels (including the regional sports networks, FX and Speed Channel) saw operating profit increase 53%.

On Wednesday, Fox shares slipped 30 cents to $25.38.