New York: Media conglomerates News Corp and Time Warner Inc posted improved quarterly results on Wednesday, riding a recovery in advertising sales and several quarters of cost cuts.
The results, which came a day after CBS Corp’s strong quarterly report, sent media shares higher even as analysts pointed to an uncertain outlook due to the possibility of a dip in the global economy.
“The general theme we’ve been seeing at media companies is strong advertising demand at all various assets because of previous cost-cutting and now it’s coming through to the bottom line” said Miller Tabak analyst David Joyce.
News Corp posted a profit of $875 million, or 33 cents a share, for its fiscal fourth quarter ended June 30. That compared with a loss of $203 million, or 8 cents a share, a year ago, when News Corp took an impairment charge.
Revenue rose 5% to $8.11 billion, with its Fox cable networks showing a strong performance and its newspapers reporting increased advertising revenue. Analysts, on average, had been expecting revenue of $8.05 billion, according to Thomson Reuters.
“I’m very, very confident (about the global economy) over the next six months,” News Corp chief executive Rupert Murdoch told analysts on a conference call. But he cautioned that he sees some “fragility” in the medium to long term.
The company — which owns the Twentieth Century Fox movie studio and newspapers including The Wall Street Journal and The Sun in the UK — said it expects operating incoming to rise in the low double-digits in fiscal 2011.
An advertising rebound coupled with cost cuts helped operating income grow 20% at News Corp’s newspapers in the United States and internationally in the second quarter.
Its Fox cable networks also posted strong revenue growth, helping to push operating income in the unit up 31%.
Growth in profits at cable and newspapers was offset by declines at its satellite TV and marketing services, as well as losses at its digital unit, which includes social networking site MySpace.
Political ads ahead
Earlier on Wednesday, Time Warner Inc raised its full-year outlook after quarterly revenue grew at the fastest pace in two years, thanks to a surge in advertising sales at its cable networks and strong turnouts for movies like “Clash of the Titans.”
Time Warner said second-quarter revenue rose 8% to $6.4 billion, beating the average analyst estimate of $6.2 billion according to Thomson Reuters. Adjusted profit per share was 50 cents, against expectations of 45 cents.
Along with CBS’s report on Tuesday, Big Media’s quarterly results could allay near-term fears that economic uncertainties would hurt the rebound in ad spending, analysts said.
“The third quarter appears to be strong even though the economy seems fragile,” said Tom Eagan, an analyst at Collins Stewart.
Still, investors are cautious about 2011 as media companies begin to face tough year-on-year comparisons. This year, advertising was bolstered by the Winter Olympics, and analysts expect political ads to pick up heading into the US mid-term elections this November.
“We wouldn’t think one should get overjoyed just yet,” warned Benchmark Co analyst Fred Moran about media companies being able to keep pace with growth next year. “There remains a question of sustainability of the state of the overall economy and consumer demand.”
US economic data on Wednesday showed that US companies hired more workers in July but the gains were too slow to reduce unemployment and spur the economy significantly.
Shares of News Corp were up 3% in extended trading after closing at $13.85 on the Nasdaq. The stock has risen some 12% since the start of the year, ahead of the S&P Movies & Entertainment Index, which is up 8% in that same period.
CBS shares rose 4.2% on the New York Stock Exchange, while Time Warner shares rose 0.3%.