By William Launder
News Corp. (NWS, NWSA) on Wednesday reported a $1.55 billion loss for its fiscal fourth quarter on a multibillion-dollar write-down primarily of its publishing businesses, most significantly those in Australia.
Class A shares of News Corp. slid in after-hours trading, down 3.9% to $22.80, as the media company reported less total revenue than analysts had predicted. News Corp. owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of this newswire and The Wall Street Journal.
The earnings report comes as News Corp. prepares to separate its publishing business from its film and television divisions in a move that will split some of the world's biggest media brands into two distinct public companies.
"News Corporation 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," Chairman and Chief Executive Rupert Murdoch said in a press release.
For the fourth quarter, News Corp. reported a loss of $1.55 billion, or 64 cents a share, compared with year-ago earnings of $683 million, or 26 cents a share.
The fourth-quarter loss included about $2.8 billion in pretax impairment and restructuring charges, linked "most significantly" to News Corp.'s Australian publishing assets. News Corp. also said it booked $57 million in new charges during the quarter tied to ongoing investigations initiated from the closure last year of the U.K. tabloid News of the World.
Excluding the previously mentioned charges and other items, the company's adjusted earnings were 32 cents a share, in line with the average analyst estimate from Thomson Reuters.
Revenue fell to $8.37 billion, from $8.96 billion, missing the average analyst prediction of $8.72 billion.
The company launched an initial $5 billion share-repurchase agreement last year as it sought to deploy excess cash it intended to use to acquire the remainder of BSkyB. It subsequently increased the plan's value to $10 billion in May.
News Corp. said that under the buyback plan, the company has bought back about $5.1 billion of Class A shares through Aug. 7, at an average price of $18.18 per share.
Write to William Launder at firstname.lastname@example.org
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