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News Corp 1Q revenue, profit misses expectations

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RYAN NAKASHIMA | November 11, 2013 07:08 PM EST | AP

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LOS ANGELES (AP) — News Corp.'s revenue unexpectedly fell in its first quarter since being spun off as a publishing-focused company, as revenue from its Australian newspapers plunged. The results Monday were short of analysts' forecasts and the company's shares fell more than 2 percent.

Net income in the fiscal first quarter, which ended in September, was $27 million, or 5 cents per share. That compares with a loss of $92 million, or 16 cents per share, a year ago.

Adjusted to exclude costs related to a U.K. hacking probe and other items, earnings came to $17 million, or 3 cents per share, which was below the 5 cents expected by analysts polled by FactSet.

Revenue fell 3 percent to $2.07 billion, also below the $2.18 billion analysts were looking for.

"We will be candid with you about the challenges, as we have been about the headwinds buffeting our Australian newspaper business," said CEO Robert Thomson. "But we are confident that our emerging strategy will well serve our investors, employees and our customers."

Among the company's new strategies is creating an advertising sales network, instead of relying on third-party networks for digital platforms.

"Any advertiser who wants to reach our great content and premium audiences must do so directly," Thomson said.

The company's shares fell 37 cents, or 2.1percent, to $17.05 in extended trading after the results came out.

Revenue from news and information services fell 10 percent to $1.5 billion. The company attributed much of that decline to a 22 percent drop in revenue from Australian newspapers, which include The Australian and The Daily Telegraph.

Westcott Rochette, an analyst with S&P Capital IQ, said the Australian newspapers are now experiencing the pain felt in the U.S. and U.K. newspaper markets for the last several years, as declining print ad revenue is not matched by digital gains.

"Essentially it's catching up to the underlying operating trends that you've seen in the U.S. And it's been a severe kind of catch-up," he said.

For the division overall, circulation and subscription revenue fell 6 percent, while ad revenue fell 12 percent. Unfavorable currency-exchange rates exacerbated the decline, as revenue in Australian dollars translated to fewer U.S. dollars.

The company said U.S. ad revenue at its flagship newspaper, The Wall Street Journal, was unchanged, although subscription and circulation revenue improved.

Despite flat ad revenue, usage of the Journal's mobile app was up 59 percent in the month of September. That raised concerns among some analysts that ad dollars weren't following consumer behavior.

Still, cost-cutting helped lift profits despite revenue that was weaker than expected, said Douglas Arthur, an analyst with Evercore Partners. "The overall result was better than we thought," he said.

Book publishing revenue from its HarperCollins business fell 7 percent to $328 million. An increase in e-book sales was more than offset by the divestiture of a live events business, softness in Christian titles and a decision to stop distributing books on behalf of other companies.

Pay TV programming revenue came to $132 million, as businesses like Fox Sports Australia were added to the company as part of its spin-off from Twenty-First Century Fox Inc. in June.

Digital real estate services revenue rose 11 percent to $90 million.