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Newspapers force News Corp loss


Rupert Murdoch's struggling Australian newspapers have helped drag down News Corporation's performance enough to produce a fourth quarter loss of $US1.6 billion ($A1.52 billion).

The result was hit by a $US2.8 billion ($A2.66 billion) pre-tax charge, a significant chunk of which was linked to the writedown in value of the group's Australian newspapers.

The writedowns were made as News prepares to split its struggling newspaper businesses from the more profitable TV and movies arm next year.

The media giant still produced a profit for the year to June 30 of $US1.2 billion ($A1.14 billion), down from $US2.7 billion ($A2.57 billion) the previous year.

While its publishing division, including newspapers located around the world, struggled, profits soared for its cable TV networks and filmed entertainment division, which includes 20th Century Fox.

Those two divisions contribute more than 75 per cent of its operating income, with the cable networks' profits leaping up by more than 19 per cent to $3.3 billion, while filmed entertainment was 18 per cent better at $1.1 billion.

They will also drive forecast moderate earnings growth for the 2013 financial year that News Corp chief financial officer David DeVoe told analysts would be "in the high singles to low double digit range".

Overall operating income rose to $US5.4 billion ($A5.14 billion) from $US4.9 billion ($A4.66 billion).

But the outlook for News Corp's newspapers, which include The Wall Street Journal, The Sun, The Australian and Herald Sun, remains weak and "will adversely affect profits", News Corp president Chase Carey said.

There was a 30 per cent slump in publishing's earnings to $597 million, following a drop in advertising revenues, while legal costs relating to the phone hacking scandal at The News of The World were $US224 million ($A213.04 million).

Shareholder agitation has forced the divisional split in what media analyst, Fusion Strategy's Steve Allen, said may force Rupert Murdoch out of newspapers.

"They're not going to quit newspapers, but if you use Fairfax, APN and SevenWest Media's downwards trajectory share prices as a guide, when they split a whole bunch of people will look at it as an opportunity for a takeover," Mr Allen told AAP.

A new management team led by Kim Williams at News' Australian newspaper arm, News Limited, would move into a "significant restructuring" mode during the year, which has already led to job losses in Australia.

Mr Carey told analysts that sports cable networks were driving income growth both in the US and internationally, with the company chasing more income in India.

News Corp also announced plans to buy a 51 per cent stake in Eredivisie Media & Marketing, which broadcasts the Dutch soccer premier league matches.

He expected to see strong annual earnings growth this year in cable TV, aided by international expansion and better advertising revenues driven by the US presidential election.

However, earnings at publishing businesses were expected to be flat in fiscal 2013, due to the cost of restructuring in Australia.

News Corp's shares were punished, closing 73 cents, or 3.2 per cent, weaker at $21.88 while its non-voting class shares were 78 cents, or 3.5 per cent, down at $21.72.

IG Markets market strategist Chris Weston said he thought investors had been unimpressed with flat annual revenue and a forecast that earnings growth might only be single digit.