News Corp. considers splitting itself in 2
Why? Movies, TV and cable generate most of the company's income. The publishing business, which includes The Wall Street Journal, isn't growing nearly as quickly.
Updated: 6:17 p.m. ET.
The markets are telling media baron Rupert Murdoch to get out of print: books and newspapers.
That's the real meaning of a story in The Wall Street Journal that says Murdoch's News Corp. (NWSA) is considering splitting into two pieces. One would contain News Corp.'s film and television businesses, including the Fox Broadcasting Network and the Fox News Channel.
The other, smaller piece would contain the company's newspaper and publishing businesses, including Dow Jones & Co., the parent of The Journal, plus newspapers in England and Australia. and book publisher HarperCollins book publishing. Their sin: Revenue growth is slow, and the group isn't nearly as profitable as the other parts of the company.
News Corp. later confirmed that the issue is being studied and a decision on the idea may come on Thursday.
Wall Street likes the idea; News Corp. shares closed up up $1.68 to $21.76 this morning.
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News Corp.'s 2011 annual report shows that publishing accounted for $8.8 billion of the company's $33.4 billion in revenue. The rest came from film entertainment, broadcasting, cable television and satellite broadcasting. The publishing group's revenue was up 3% in 2011. Cable revenue was up 14% to $8.04 billion.
In the past nine months, The Journal itself reported, cable revenue was $6.66 billion, with operating profit of $2.5 billion. Publishing revenue was $6.22 billion, with operating profit of $458 million.
The family of Chairman Rupert Murdoch, which now effectively controls News Corp. with a roughly 40% voting stake, is expected to maintain control of the two companies.
Murdoch will oversee both companies, likely retaining the chief executive role at the entertainment company, The Journal said. It isn't clear yet who will be CEO of the publishing company.
The company's newspaper business in England has been struggling under the weight of the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp.'s News of the World weekly. Employees or operatives hired by the newspaper routinely hacked into cellphones of celebrities and other people.
The scandal has resulted in criminal charges against top executives; the resignation of James Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch's son, as head of the company's British businesses; and the closure of the newspaper.
It also blew up News Corp.'s bid to buy total ownership of British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) and has damaged the credibility of the government of Prime Minister David Cameron. Cameron was friends with News Corp. executives and hired News Corp. staffers to handle communications duties.
News Corp. bought Dow Jones in 2007 for $5.7 billion after a three-month takeover courtship. But the deal hasn't been nearly as profitable as hoped, and News Corp. wrote down roughly $2.8 billion of the purchase price in 2009.
News Corp. shares were at $20.70 on Dec. 13, 2007, the day the Dow Jones deal closed. They finished Monday at $20.08, down 28 cents. In other words, at least through Monday, investors have seen little gain in four and a half years. Moreover, the stock is still trading 20% below its all-time closing high of $25.16, reached on Feb. 1, 2000.
But the shares are up 12.6% this year. Walt Disney (DIS) is up 24.5%. Comcast (CMCSA) is up 27.9%. CBS (CBS) has gained 14.6%.
Last week, Dow Jones announced that its SmartMoney personal finance and investing magazine was converting from a print product with a website into an all-digital operation. The magazine has a circulation of 815,000. Its September edition, to be published in August, will be its last in print.
The move to kill the print edition is part of a larger trend that has seen newspaper and magazine readers get more of their news and information either through broadcast or television.
The Times-Picayune newspaper in New Orleans, which won two Pulitzer prizes for its 2005 coverage of Hurricane Katrina, recently said it will print only three editions a week, providing its news mainly through the Internet. Sister newspapers in Mobile, Huntsville and Birmingham in Alabama are making similar moves.
The publications are owned by Advance Publications, controlled by members of the Newhouse family.
In New Orleans, 84 of the paper's 173 editorial employees will lose jobs between now and September. Jobs also will be cut in advertising, circulation and production departments.
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