It's Called a Conglomerate for a Reason

Observers of News Corp. (NYSE: NWS  ) have lately been fascinated by Rupert Murdoch's bid for Dow Jones (NYSE: DJ  ) . Many probably weren't even thinking about the media conglomerate's upcoming fourth-quarter earnings report. It's here now, though, and I can tell you that the numbers are exciting in their own right.   

Net sales increased nearly 9% for the quarter, coming in at $7.4 billion. Net income from continuing operations rose 22% to $0.28 per diluted share. For the full fiscal year, net sales expanded by 13% to $28.7 billion. Net income from continuing operations increased 24% to $1.08 per diluted share.

As everyone knows, Rupert Murdoch loves to wheel and deal. Not only was he hot for the aforementioned Dow Jones, but there were a few asset sales mentioned in the earnings release, such as the disposition of News Corp.'s stake in Sky Brasil. The company seems to be doing a good job managing its various holdings.

News Corp. has a thriving film business, one that easily competes with major studios such as Disney (NYSE: DIS  ) , Time Warner (NYSE: TWX  ) , and Viacom (NYSE: VIA  ) . Although operating income was down for this segment in the quarter because of the recognition of costs to release such films as Marvel's (NYSE: MVL  ) Fantastic Four sequel, for the full year it increased 12% to $1.2 billion. News Corp. also recently had a big movie hit with one of its best-known franchises, The Simpsons. Although it was released after the quarter ended, The Simpsons Movie should be a driver for the company's film business in future quarters.

The television segment may have seen decreases in operating income for the quarter and for the year, but cable programming shot up 46% and 26% in those same periods, respectively. You've got to hand it to that Fox News Channel -- it's a jewel of an asset, roping in an audience that's 75% higher than its nearest competitor during primetime. And I have to wonder what plans General Electric's (NYSE: GE  ) CNBC has up its corporate sleeves to keep at bay the business channel that News Corp. is developing. It's going to be tough if a lot of dedicated Fox News fans migrate. I see this new channel as a great catalyst going forward.

There are a lot of elements to Murdoch's empire, but I think the conglomerate had an excellent year overall. Operating cash flow increased 26% to $4.1 billion, and free cash flow increased 23% to $2.8 billion. This was enough money to cover acquisitions and dividend obligations during the quarter. I like the company, I think it's being well-run, and I believe its platforms and programming will help increase shareholder value over time. If you're looking for a media holding, News Corp. is as good as any to look at.

Disney, Marvel, and Time Warner are proud members of the Motley Fool Stock Advisor recommendation list. Sign up for a free 30-day trial of the service with no obligation whatsoever. The Gardner brothers can help you construct a long-term, wealth-building portfolio.

Fool contributor Steven Mallas owns shares of Disney, General Electric, and Marvel Entertainment. As of this writing, he was ranked 10,979 out of more than 60,000 investors in the CAPS system. CAPS wants you ... needs you. Check it out. The Fool's disclosure policy is fair and balanced.


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