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News Corp profits plunge 75 per cent: Can Foxtel float be far away?

Business

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation has left the door open for a Foxtel float as it reports a big drop in full-year profits.

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The US-listed media group – which owns newspaper, TV and streaming services in Australia – recorded $US187 million ($A287 million) in profit for the financial year, a 75 per cent decline from the previous year’s $US760 million ($A1.2 billion) record.

Revenue for the year ended June 30 was $US9.9 billion ($A15.1 billion), a five per cent decrease on the prior year, largely caused by the absence of an extra week compared to the previous reporting period.

News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson attributed the drop in profitability to macroeconomic headwinds, supply chain disruption and foreign exchange fluctuations.

But the former Sydney Morning Herald journalist trumpeted the company’s return to profit growth in the fourth quarter.

“Our results showed marked improvement in the second half, so with inflation abating, interest rates plateauing and incipient signs of stability in the housing market, we have sound reasons for optimism about the coming quarters,” he said on Friday.

“Auspicious macro conditions will surely work to the benefit of a company that has become more digital, more global and with more recurring revenues in higher margin segments.”

News Corp reported an eight per cent increase in fourth quarter earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation to $US341 million ($A520 million).

E&P Capital analyst Entcho Raykovski said the figure beat analyst expectations by 22 per cent, primarily due to cost savings from the sacking of one in 20 staff.

Chief financial officer Susan Panuccio flagged job losses are expected to exceed the five per cent target.

Digital accounted for more than half of News Corp’s revenues for the full year as the company seeks to make fuller use of generative AI to create new revenue streams and cut costs.

The group’s book publishing arm recorded a 13 per cent decline in revenues for the quarter as book sales slumped.

Inflationary pressures, inventory issues at Amazon and a reset in the book market following a pandemic-related boom weighed down the sector.

Digital real estate platform REA Group suffered a decline in Australian residential revenue as listings fell, most notably in Sydney and Melbourne, as well as a drop in financial services revenues from lower settlement activity.

Weakness elsewhere was partially offset by Wall Street Journal publisher Dow Jones, which posted its highest profitability since its 2007 take over.

Dow Jones was the highest contributor to profits across the group, bolstered by the acquisition of financial services platforms OPIS and CMA and double-digit growth in its risk and compliance products.

The subscription video service and news media segments also grew, when excluding currency impacts, as streaming services Binge and Kayo drove a five per cent uplift in subscriber numbers.

Mr Thomson left the door ajar for a potential Foxtel spin-off after plans to float the pay TV service were put on hold in 2022.

“We can’t comment specifically about an IPO but what I can say with absolute certainty is that the success we’ve had with Foxtel has given us absolutely the option of optionality,” he said.

He repeated calls for the release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, “unjustly incarcerated by Russia for being a journalist seeking facts, seeking the truth”.

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