News Corp. shrugs off tabloid scandal

@CNNMoney August 10, 2011: 6:07 PM ET

NEW YORK (CNNMoney) -- News Corp., the embattled media empire that has been rocked by recent phone-hacking allegations, has at least managed to keep its finances intact.

And on a conference call with investors, chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch said he and the rest of News Corp.'s board believe he should continue to hold both jobs.

News Corp. (NWS) reported net income of $683 million, or 26 cents a share, in the fourth quarter. Excluding one-time costs, net earnings were $982 million, or 35 cents per share. That beat analysts' expectations of 30 cents per share.

Revenue also came in higher than expected at $8.96 billion. Analysts were looking for $8.46 billion in sales.

While the company may have fared well financially in the quarter, its reputation took a beating.

Beginning in early July, allegations of phone hacking at British tabloid News of the World -- including tampering with the voicemail of a murdered teenage girl -- sparked an international uprising and led to investigations of News Corp.'s publishing business.

The fallout over the phone-hacking scandal caused the company to shut down News of the World, and has led to arrests and resignations of top employees. It has also sent the company's stock plunging, with shares down more than 20% over the past three months.

Earth to Rupert: Just sell the newspapers!

"We are acting decisively in the matter and will do whatever is necessary to prevent something like this from ever occurring again," Murdoch said in a statement accompanying the company's earnings results.

Murdoch claimed in front of a hearing in Parliament last month that he and son James, the head of the division that ran the tabloid, had no knowledge of the hacking.

When Murdoch was asked on an earnings call Wednesday whether he thought his board would be alright with appointing James as his successor given the scrutiny he is under, Murdoch said he "hope[s] that job won't be open in the near future."

Though News Corp.'s publishing business -- which includes its newspapers and book publisher HarperCollins -- has gotten the lion's share of attention recently, it only accounts for a small chunk of the company's revenue. In the fourth quarter, publishing made up about a quarter of total revenue and less than 20% of its operating profit. News Corp. also owns Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal, and the New York Post.

News Corp. also offloaded social networking site MySpace. News Corp. sold MySpace for an estimated $35 million, after buying it for $580 million in 2005.

Meanwhile, as hacking allegations grew, the company shelved plans to buy the remainder of satellite TV company British Sky Broadcasting, and announced it would devote $5 billion in cash to buyback shares.

But its cable networks like Fox News and FX, which form the biggest part of the company's business, remained strong in the quarter. Operating income for the division jumped 12%, while revenue rose 15%.

Improved advertising sales, led by more than 20% gains at both its domestic and international cable channels, also helped to boost overall revenue in the quarter.

Time to buy News Corp.?

Shares of News Corp. edged slightly lower in after-hours trading, after initially spiking more than 3% immediately following the results. Shares closed 6% lower in regular trading Wednesday.

News Corp. joins media giants Time Warner (TWX, Fortune 500), CBS (CBS, Fortune 500) and Viacom (VIAB, Fortune 500) in reporting fairly strong earnings. (Time Warner is the parent company of CNNMoney.)

Disney (DIS, Fortune 500) posted solid earnings late Tuesday and said it isn't seeing evidence of a slowdown, but its stock got hammered in Wednesday trading along with the rest of the market.

With the broader stock market in turmoil during recent sessions, many investors worry about the impact a struggling economy may have on big revenue-generators like ad sales and consumer spending. To top of page

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