In another sign of a media industry turnaround, two companies controlled by Rupert Murdoch easily beat analysts' quarterly estimates Wednesday, helped by increased advertising sales.
swung to a fourth-quarter profit, boosted partially by a spike in sales at its television segment.
The Australia-based company earned $370 million, or 28 cents an American depositary receipt, compared with last year's loss of $1.7 billion, or $1.40 a share. Before certain items, the company earned $320 million, or 24 cents a share, compared with $114 million, or 8 cents a share, in the prior-year period. Analysts were expecting the company to earn 16 cents a share.
"This past year was not without its challenges, including a cover price war in the UK newspaper market that, while now ended, lasted longer than expected as well as the costs associated with covering the war in Iraq," said Chief Executive Murdoch. "We addressed head-on the ratings weakness at the Fox network during the first half of the year, and as a result Fox finished the broadcast season with two straight sweeps victories, vastly improved revenues and significantly higher earnings."
Consolidated operating income for the fourth quarter was $570 million, up 26% from the $452 million reported a year ago. Operating income in the company's cable business nearly tripled thanks to strong ratings and advertising growth at Fox News Channel and regional sports, News Corp. said. Television segment operating income was up 63% to $291 million, as high ratings for such shows as "American Idol," "24," "The Simpsons" and "That 70's Show" drove advertising revenue at broadcast network and television stations.
The company also said its print businesses reported higher earnings due to strengths of free-standing inserts and advertising demand in Australia. In the newspaper segment, which includes
The New York Post
, operating income was up 8% at $126.
Total revenue was $4.6 billion, up 20% from last year's $3.8 billion. Shares of the company closed at $32.58 Tuesday on the
New York Stock Exchange
Over at the company's separately traded
unit, quarterly results also beat analysts' estimates, helped by a jump in TV advertising sales.
The New York-based company earned $258 million, or 29 cents a share, compared with $40 million, or 5 cents a share, in the prior-year quarter. Analysts were expecting 24 cents a share. Revenue rose to $2.8 billion from $2.4 billion.
Shares of Fox closed at $29.79 Tuesday.