News Corp. Beats Estimates, Shares Rise After Close

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- News Corp. ( NWSA), the media company controlled by Rupert Murdoch that is expected in June, posted first-quarter earnings that beat analysts' estimates on double-digit increases for subscriber fees at its cable networks, including Fox News Channel.

News Corp. reported adjusted earnings per share of 36 cents for the quarter ended in March, beating an average estimate of 35 cents in a Bloomberg survey of 19 analysts. Sales increased 14% to $9.5 billion, also beating an average analyst estimate of $9.2 billion.

Shares of the New York-based company were rising 3.3% in after-hours trading after closing at $31.86, extending a 24% advance this year, propelled in part by the upcoming split and share buybacks.

Fees that News Corp. charges pay-TV providers to carry programming such as "American Idol" as well as sporting events increased 11% for the company's U.S. properties and 42% among international channels. Advertising revenue at the domestic cable channels grew 2% in the quarter compared to the same period a year ago.

The quarterly report is the last before News Corp. splits with its newspaper and magazines from the company's networks and film divisions. The transaction, which is expected to be completed in the coming months, will result in the legacy publications -- The Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and The Times of London -- retaining the News Corp. name while the networks and film businesses -- Fox, 20th Century Fox, BSkyB -- will be rechristened as 21st Century Fox.

Murdoch, who began in the industry as a newspaper publisher some 50 years ago in his native Australia, has seen the company and its stock price rebound sharply from the ongoing phone-hacking scandal among some of his London newspapers. News Corp's shares have surged 76% since July 1, 2011, two weeks before Murdoch told a U.K. parliamentary committee that he had no knowledge of the phone-hacking and police payment at his News of the World tabloid.

The scandal nonetheless forced Murdoch to separate his higher-growth networks and TV studios from his print and news publications, a move he had resisted for many years.

News Corp. trades at 20.1 times earnings, its highest level since December 2007, and at a premium to its chief rivals, Time Warner ( TWX), CBS Corp ( CBS), Disney ( DIS) and Viacom ( VIAB).

-- Written by Leon Lazaroff in New York