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Murdoch's Fox confident on Sky takeover

Thursday, May 11, 2017 - 07:05

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Profit in the January-March quarter fell 3.5 per cent from a year ago to US$799 million, while revenues grew 4.7 per cent to US$7.56 billion.

[NEW YORK] Rupert Murdoch's media-entertainment giant 21st Century Fox reported Wednesday a dip in profits in the past quarter while expressing confidence on winning approval for its takeover of pay-TV giant Sky.

Profit in the January-March quarter fell 3.5 per cent from a year ago to US$799 million, while revenues grew 4.7 per cent to US$7.56 billion.

Shares in Fox - which owns the Twentieth Century Fox film studios and the Fox television properties - slumped 4.23 per cent in after-hours trade on the results, which showed profits higher than forecast but weaker-than-expected revenues.

"We made progress in the quarter against our key strategic priorities, exemplified by our creative successes across screens, from theatrical releases Logan and Hidden Figures to new FX (television) debuts of Legion, Feud and Taboo," said a statement from Rupert Murdoch and his son Lachlan, who share the title of executive chairman.

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The statement said the company expected to win approval in London of the agreement to buy the 61per cent stake in Sky which it does not already own.

"Our proposed combination with Sky, which was recently approved unconditionally by the European Commission, will advance another of our strategic priorities, driving innovation for customers," the statement said.

"We remain confident the proposed transaction will be approved by the end of the calendar year following a thorough review process." The takeover bid raised fears that it could give the Murdoch family too much control over the British media landscape and reduce media plurality.

Sky broadcasts the 24-hour Sky News channel, blockbuster movies and live English Premier League football, and also provides internet and telephone services.

In 2011, Mr Murdoch was forced to abandon his previous takeover bid of Sky - then known as BSkyB - as controversy raged over the hacking of the telephones of celebrities and crime victims by his tabloid the News of the World, which was subsequently shut down.

Some analysts have said the bid could be impacted by a scandal at US-based Fox News, where key executives have been ousted amid accusations of sexual harassment.

Fox said its revenues in the past quarter were helped by the television segment, led by its Super Bowl broadcast, and higher revenues from other television and cable operations, offset by lower box office receipts.

Despite some big-screen successes, revenues were lower than a year ago when it was showing its hit films like Deadpool and released The Martian for home entertainment.

The company was formed by the 2013 breakup of Mr Murdoch's News Corp into two separate firms as part of a plan to "unlock value" for shareholders.

Mr Murdoch, 86, began a gradual withdrawal from both companies in 2013, and now shares the title of chairman with his eldest son Lachlan at both firms.

AFP

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