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News Corp swings to loss on write-downs
[NEW YORK] News Corp, the publishing arm of Rupert Murdoch's corporate empire, swung to a loss in the last quarter, forced to write down the values of its Australian newspapers.
The New York-based company - whose newspaper assets also include the Wall Street Journal and Times of London - reported a loss of US$290 million in the fiscal quarter ending December 31, compared with a profit of US$62 million a year earlier.
Total revenues in the period dipped two per cent to US$2.1 billion.
Chief executive Robert Thomson said the company is in the midst of a period of "strategic reinvestment and digital diversification," as it seeks to adapt to an industry where online is gaining at the expense of print.
In the "news and information" unit, he said digital now accounts for 27 per cent of segment revenues.
"We are especially confident in the value of our news brands, given growing consumer demand for accurate and timely journalism," he said.
"In fact, the Wall Street Journal now has over 2.1 million paid subscribers and, for the first time, more than 50 per cent of those subscribers are digital." Results took a hit from a write-down of US$310 million mostly due to the diminished value of the company's Australian newspapers.
The company also includes the HarperCollins book publisher and a "digital real estate" platform with sites such as realtor.com, both of which saw growth in the past quarter.
News Corp retained the name of the media-entertainment conglomerate broken up into two separate firms in 2013 as part of Murdoch's plan to "unlock value" for shareholders.
Mr Murdoch, 85, began a gradual withdrawal from both companies in 2013, and now shares the title of chairman with his eldest son Lachlan at both firms while his son James Murdoch is chief executive at the television-entertainment unit known as 21st Century Fox.
The company's assets also include the New York Post, the News UK newspaper division, News America Marketing and the Storyful social news operation.
Its Australian operations include major daily newspapers and a stake in the Foxtel subscription television service.