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US media companies rebound on ad recovery

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, says a Reuters report. 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 per cent 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.

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"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 per cent 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 per cent. 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.

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 per cent 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 U.S. 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."

Date posted: August 6, 2010 Last modified: May 23, 2018 Total views: 169