LOS ANGELES – News Corp. Ltd. (NWS) on Wednesday said quarterly profit rose 28 percent as strength in broadcast and cable television helped offset a lackluster performance by the film division and Italian pay-TV losses.
News Corp., which is moving its headquarters and main listing to the United States from Australia, reported a fiscal first-quarter net profit of $536 million or earnings per American Depositary Receipt of 36 cents, compared with $422 million or 32 cents per ADR in the year-ago quarter.
Revenues rose 12 percent to $5.2 billion.
"The quarter looked pretty good across the board. The impressive cable network performance offset the greater-than-expected losses by Sky Italia (search)," said Richard Greenfield, analyst with Fulcrum Global Partners.
Net profit before items rose to $467 million or 32 cents per ADR, compared with $386 million, or 29 cents per ADR.
On that basis, analysts on average had forecast earnings of 30 cents per ADR, according to Reuters Estimates.
News Corp. owns the Fox network (search), 20th Century Fox (search) film studios and a host of newspaper and satellite assets including BSkyB (search) and DirecTV (search) . Separately, Fox Entertainment (search) on Wednesday posted a drop in quarterly profit, as expenses related to its DirecTV purchase offset cable and television network gains.
Operating income at News Corp's film division fell to $285 million from $328 million, while the television unit's operating income rose to $233 million from $179 million.
Operating income for its cable network programing division rose to $196 million from $133 million a year earlier, reflected strength across all of its primary cable channels and the absence of losses from the Los Angeles Dodgers (search) baseball team, which was sold during fiscal 2004.
News Corp's satellite television division reported a first quarter operating loss of $121 million, compared with a year-ago loss of $117 million, but the company said revenue in local currency terms grew 45 percent on subscriber additions.
There were 167,000 net new subscribers to Sky Italia's subscriber base in the quarter, taking the total to 2.83 million at quarter's end.
Greenfield said he was not too concerned about the losses, assuming the Italian satellite network reaches profitability in 2005 as News Corp. has forecast.
"Under the assumption they're still headed toward profitability, these losses appear to be timing-related and not due to a business plan," he said.
Newspaper operating income rose to $120 million from $102 million a year ago.
Built by Rupert Murdoch from a single newspaper in the sleepy Australian city of Adelaide, News Corp. ranks among the world's top media companies along with Time Warner Inc. (TWX), Viacom Inc. (VIA) and The Walt Disney Co. (DIS).
News Corp. is the parent company of the Fox News Channel, which operates FOXNews.com.