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News Corp. Profit Rises, but Short of Forecasts

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. said its quarterly net profit rose on higher advertising sales at the Fox TV network and Fox News Channel, as well as a one-time gain from its stock swap with Liberty Media.

News Corp.
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News Corp.

The owner of 20th Century Fox and MySpace said its fiscal third-quarter profit rose to $2.7 billion, or 91 cents per share, from $871 million, or 27 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

But those results included a $1.7 billion gain from its swap with Liberty Media.

News Corp said profit excluding special items was 30 cents a share. The average analyst forecast compiled by Thomson Financial was for 31 cents a share.

Revenue rose 16 percent to $8.75 billion, compared to the average Wall Street forecast of $8.6 billion.

Pali Research analyst Richard Greenfield said News Corp continued to log strong operating income growth from its television division compared to peers.

"You've now got three straight quarters of industry-leading growth," Greenfield said. "When will investors give them credit for their growth?"

Operating income at News Corp's television division, which includes the FOX TV network and TV stations, rose 53 percent from lower prime-time programming costs and higher advertising sales from its broadcast of the Super Bowl.

Fox News Channel contributed to the company's cable network operating profit growth of 17 percent.

Overall operating income in the quarter grew 16 percent to $1.4 billion, News Corp said.

It did not break out results for Fox Interactive Media, which oversees MySpace, saying only that the "strong revenue growth from increased search and advertising revenues was partially offset by increased costs associated with domestic and international expansion, new features and costs associated with the start-up of new ventures."

Investors will be keen to hear updates from Murdoch on MySpace, whose ambitious projections last year for well over a $1 billion in fiscal annual 2008 revenue were cut twice. The company's latest estimate is for revenue to reach nearly $1 billion.

Wall Street is also looking for Murdoch to address why his company continues to pursue acquisitions of newspapers, the hardest hit media sector. News Corp has bid $580 million for Newsday from Tribune Co, sources have said.

Those two concerns have dragged News Corp shares 10 percent lower this year.

Shares of News Corp. were mostly flat in extended electronic trading after closing at $19.20.

- Reuters contributed to this report.

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