It’s easy to see why News Corp’s earnings release emphasizes its full year results instead of the latest numbers from the quarter that ended in June. A $2.9B pre-tax impairment charge, primarily tied to its publishing business, resulted in a net loss of $1.5B for the quarter vs last year’s $728 profit, on revenues of $8.4B, -6.6%. The revenue figure was less than the $8.7B that analysts expected. And even if you wipe away the impact of the one-time charges, earnings merely matched forecasts of 32 cents a share. News Corp says that the charge includes a $1.5B write-down of goodwill and $1.3B for “indefinite-lived intangibles” primarily involving its Australian operations. But the numbers for the operations likely will sting investors. Cable networks were the only operations with unblemished good news, with revenues of $2.5B, +15.1%, and operating income of $792M, +25.5%. The company says that domestic affiliate fees rose 16%, including rate increases at the regional sports networks and Fox News, while ad sales were +5%. But Filmed Entertainment suffered with a weaker theatrical slate than last year and lower home video sales. The unit had revenues of $1.7B, -14.5%, with operating income of $120M, -42.9%. The Fox network and other TV assets also were down as declines in ad sales — which News Corp says was “primarily driven by lower American Idol ratings” — offset retransmission consent payments. Revenues were -3.3% to $1.1B with operating income -8.6% to $213M. And the publishing unit was bruised by lower ad sales in Australia and the U.K., and the closing last year of the scandal-ridden News Of The World — although the company says The Wall Street Journal delivered higher profits. The operation generated $2.0B in revenues, -13.9%, and operating income of $139M, -48.5%.
“We find ourselves in the middle of great change, driven by shifts in technology, consumer behavior, advertiser demands and economic uncertain and change brings about great opportunity,” CEO Rupert Murdoch says. News Corp “is in a strong operational, strategic and financial position, which should only be enhanced by the proposed separation of the media and entertainment and publishing businesses.”