The News Corp board will meet tomorrow to discuss the plan to separate its TV and film operations from the print ones, with advice from Goldman Sachs and Blair Effron of Centerview Partners. Assuming there’s no last-minute hitch, the arrangement will be made public on Thursday. Then the waiting game begins; it could take as long as a year for the split to actually take place. The thinking is that News Corp investors would receive shares in a new entity housing the publishing and education assets including The Wall Street Journal, The New York Post, and book publisher Harper Collins. Rupert Murdoch would continue to control about 40% of the votes at both companies and serve on each board as chairman. Decisions regarding management have yet to be firmed up, but I hear that Murdoch likely would remain CEO of entertainment-focused News Corp while someone else would run day-to-day affairs at the print company. Possibilities for that job include Dow Jones Managing Editor Robert Thompson, Dow Jones CEO Lex Fenwick, and News International CEO Tom Mockridge.
Investors blessed the deal Monday, sending News Corp shares up 8.3% to $21.76. Fitch Ratings, a debt analysis firm, said that the split would “have no impact” on the company’s ‘BBB+’ rating with a Stable Outlook. Other analysts also applauded. Lazard Capital Markets’ Barton Crockett said that the two entities would have a combined value of $26 a share, up $2 from his current price target for News Corp. Nomura Equity Research’s Michael Nathanson says the two stocks would be worth “at least” $24, up from his present $23 target. But Bernstein Research’s Todd Juenger stuck with his $22 target. Half of News Corp’s value comes from its cable networks and “Even in optimistic scenarios, which we question due to audience erosion at (Fox News Channel) and cost pressures at FX, this segment alone is not enough to power the stock to attractive upside.”