News Corp doubles profit to $2.95 billion

NEW YORK (AFP) - Rupert Murdoch's News Corp said on Wednesday its profit in the just-ended quarter more than doubled to US$2.38 billion (S$2.95 billion), helped by a reorganization that brings in results from global broadcasting units.

In releasing the earnings, Murdoch said the media-entertainment conglomerate was making "progress" toward the breakup of the group into two separate companies - one focused on publishing, the other on film and television.

Revenue for the fiscal second quarter to Dec 31 rose five percent from a year earlier to US$9.43 billion, led by 18 per cent growth in cable programming.

The profit adjusted for special items amounted to 44 cents a share, two cents better than Wall Street estimates. Mr Murdoch said the results show "our strong momentum" as the company "seized opportunities to invest in our core businesses for long-term and sustainable growth."

"The strategies we executed against in the quarter continue to bolster News Corporation's competitive position and enhance our ability to benefit from global demand for content, especially sports programming," he added.

"As we make progress toward the proposed separation of our entertainment and publishing businesses later this year, I am confident in the future prospects for both businesses." The company's cable network programming accounted for an operating profit of US$945 million and filmed entertainment US$383 million.

A big part of the profit jump camp from gains posted in accounting for the company's increased ownership stakes in Fox Sports Australia and Fox Star Sports Asia. The changes in accounting added US$1.4 billion to profits.

The group saw a modest increase in publishing, a unit which includes The Wall Street Journal and other newspapers. The operating income for the segment was US$234 million, a US$16 million improvement from a year earlier, helped by improved results from British newspapers, the company said.

The results included US$56 million set aside for investigations of the phone-hacking scandal in Britain, which led to the closure of The News of the World.

Some US$23 million was set aside for the breakup of the company, which was announced last year.

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