21st Century Fox reported quarterly revenue that slightly beat expectations, while earnings remained in line with analyst projections, amid heightened scrutiny by regulators and some investors over sexual harassment scandals at its flagship network Fox News.
Here's how the company did compared with what Wall Street expected, according to Thomson Reuters estimates:
- Earnings per share of 49 cents vs 49 cents expected
- Revenue of $7 billion vs. $6.81 billion expected
In the year-ago quarter, 21st Century Fox posted earnings of 51 cents per share on $6.5 billion in revenue.
The company's shares were slightly up in after-hours trading.
21st Century Fox saw revenue from cable programming, which includes Fox News and FX, increase about 10 percent compared with the same period in the year prior. Revenue from the company's film business increased about 3 percent.
CNBC reported Monday that 21st Century Fox has held talks to sell most of its assets to Walt Disney Co. The two companies operate in several of the same industries. Disney is interested in Fox's movie studio, TV production and international assets such as Star and Sky, as well as entertainment networks such as FX and National Geographic.
The talks were held in the last few weeks, but the two companies are not actively negotiating at the moment. While they could sit down again to explore a possible deal, the deal remains far from certain.
"We have a longstanding policy of not commenting on corporate activity or transactions," Lachlan Murdoch, executive co-chairman of 21st Century Fox, said in a conference call.
By selling most of its assets to Disney, 21st Century Fox would narrow its business to a core group of properties around news and sports, in an effort to compete better in a market disrupted by digital content offered by Facebook, Google, Amazon and Netflix.
A deal would allow 21st Century Fox to focus on properties such as Fox News, at a time when the lucrative cable news division is under fire over sexual harassment and discrimination scandals. Fox News would not be included in a deal with Disney.
The scandals at Fox News have placed its parent company under growing scrutiny by regulators and some investors. The company's $15 billion bid to acquire European broadcaster Sky, for example, has been called into question as new revelations have emerged about how 21st Century Fox dealt with sexual harassment allegations at Fox News.
21st Century Fox, controlled by Rupert Murdoch and his sons, currently owns a 39 percent stake in Sky and is seeking to buy the rest of the network. Under the parameters of the possible deal discussed with Disney, however, 21st Century Fox would sell its stake in Sky.
Tom Watson, deputy leader of Britain's Labour Party, has urged the country's competition watchdog to block the Sky deal over the sexual harassment scandals at Fox News. The watchdog is already examining whether or not Fox adheres to broadcasting standards.
"We are confident we are going to get the deal done in the first half of next year," Lachlan Murdoch said during Wednesday's conference call.
According to The New York Times, 21st Century Fox renewed Fox News personality Bill O'Reilly's contract shortly after he reached a $32 million sexual harassment settlement with a network analyst. The company acknowledges it was aware of the woman's complaints, according to the Times.
21st Century Fox ousted O'Reilly in April after the Times first revealed he had reached settlements totaling $13 million with five women who accused him of sexual harassment.
O'Reilly's ouster came nearly a year after Fox News head Roger Ailes was forced to resign because of sexual harassment allegations. Ailes, who died in May, denied any wrongdoing. O'Reilly also denies the allegations against him.
Fox News reportedly faces a federal investigation over whether the network failed to inform shareholders about financial settlements of sexual harassment allegations against Ailes.
21st Century Fox said in August it has incurred $50 million in costs related to sexual harassment and discrimination settlements.