UPDATE, 7:11PM Today: News Corp’s board this evening unanimously approved the proposed plan to split the media conglomerate into two separate companies, one focused on its entertainment businesses and the other its publishing, the Wall Street Journal reports. Chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch spoke at the board meeting that lasted about 90 minutes, according to a sourced cited by the Journal. Details including who will run the publishing business have not yet been decided. News Corp is expected to announce the split formally tomorrow morning. 20th Century Fox, Fox Broadcasting Co. and its TV stations, plus Fox News Channel and other cable networks and News Corp’s considerable global satellite businesses would be part of the entertainment company. Publishing businesses including The Wall Street Journal, New York Post and the HarperCollins book imprints would fall under the publishing umbrella. News Corp’s Australian newspaper businesses and the company’s News International operations are also publishing companies but the Journal did not elaborate on management structure.
The News Corp split will enable investors to more accurately value the individual business units and attract a higher rating for the entertainment business, according to media analysts at Goldman Sachs in Australia. The broker estimates the film and entertainment company could post $6.7 billion in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization in the 2013 fiscal year, versus $1.07 billion for the publishing company. While that would equate to an overall rise of 11.6% in effective cash flow for the entertainment company, analysts warned that “We expect that a pure play publishing business would be subject to structural issues currently facing that industry” and would likely be subject to a de-rating.
Disagreeing with that assessment, Mark McDonnell, senior analyst at Australian broker BBY, is bullish about News’ prospects in publishing. “No company is better positioned than News Corp. with its brands such as the Wall Street Journal … to build strong audiences on digital platforms around the world.”
News’ Australian arm News Ltd. Is expected to remain integrated and not be part of the global carve-up, given its 70% share of the national print market and its $A2 billion bid for Consolidated Media Holdings, which would give it full ownership of Fox Sports and 50% of dominant pay-TV platform Foxtel.
(Don Groves contributed to this report from Sydney.)