With Purchase of Move, News Corp. Puts Focus on the Internet

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- News Corp. (NWS) , which spun out its 21st Century Fox (FOX) unit to focus on print media, is now spending $950 million of its cash for Move (MOVE) , an online real estate platform whose sites include Realtor.com.

The acquisition puts News Corp. in direct competition with Zillow (Z) , which recently announced it would buy Trulia (TRLA) for $3.5 billion.

In announcing the deal, CEO Robert Thomson said News Corp. can surpass Zillow because that company will have to spend time integrating Trulia while News Corp. will immediately start using its Wall Street Journal Marketplace, WSJ.com and Barron's platforms, as well as its other newspaper sites, to push links to Realtor.com.

News Corp. is paying 32 times what Move earned last year before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. Move's revenue last year was $227 million, and its net income was just $574,000.

Move's market cap before the deal was $612 million. News Corp. will buy the company with some of its $3.14 billion cash on hand.

The deal is being structured to give REA Group, an Australian real estate listings company in which News Corp. owns a majority stake, 20% of Move and operating control. News Corp. will buy Move through a tender offer under Delaware law, buying all the stock once a majority of shareholders approve.

News Corp. has work to do to make its new site competitive, as a quick look at a Realtor.Com and Zillow page covering a sample Atlanta neighborhood shows. The Realtor.com page is a list of listings. The Zillow page is an interactive map showing comparable prices throughout the area.

On the conference call, Thomson called his company "the new News" and emphasized the huge opportunities in online markets. Real estate agents now spend $14 billion on advertising, he noted, and News Corp. can now take advantage of that money's continuing move to digital platforms. He said the acquisition will also help REA and Move expand their services worldwide as the Internet grows.

In addition to competitive risks, however, the decision puts News Corp. more squarely in the crosshairs of Google (GOOG) , about whom Thomson complained to European regulators just a few weeks ago. Google reacted to that move with scorn in a blog post titled "Dear Rupert," in reference to News Corp.'s founder Rupert Murdoch.

Move will also be in the crosshairs of disputes within the real estate listings industry, such as the decision by Tennessee's Realtracs, a multiple listing service company in the South, to drive consumers to its own brokers' pages by offering only limited data to third-party sites including Realtor.com.

If anyone thought that the split between Fox and News Corp. would limit News Corp. to the print business, they need to think again. The new News is a digital company.

At the time of publication the author owned shares in GOOG and GOOGL.

Follow @danablankenhorn

This article is commentary by an independent contributor, separate from TheStreet's regular news coverage.


TheStreet Ratings team rates NEWS CORP as a Hold with a ratings score of C-. TheStreet Ratings Team has this to say about their recommendation:

"We rate NEWS CORP (NWS) a HOLD. The primary factors that have impacted our rating are mixed ? some indicating strength, some showing weaknesses, with little evidence to justify the expectation of either a positive or negative performance for this stock relative to most other stocks. The company's strengths can be seen in multiple areas, such as its impressive record of earnings per share growth, compelling growth in net income and largely solid financial position with reasonable debt levels by most measures. However, as a counter to these strengths, we find that the stock has had a generally disappointing performance in the past year."

You can view the full analysis from the report here: NWS Ratings Report

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