By Liana B. Baker
Feb 6 Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox Inc
, the television and film company split off from News
Corp last June, lowered its fiscal-year outlook on
Thursday, blaming missed targets at its movie studio and weak
broadcast network ratings.
However, its shares rose nearly 3 percent as investors
shrugged off the news and focused instead on the company's
long-term prospects, which analysts said are boosted by its
focus on sports and profitable stable of cable networks.
"Ratings trends are not a surprise and are pretty ugly but
the fundamental strategy of investing aggressively in sports and
cable networks show Fox is making the correct long term
investments to build the business," said BTIG analyst Rich
Fox shares rose almost 3 percent before slipping back to
trade up 1.8 percent at $32.29. The stock is trading up more
than 10 percent since the June split.
Chief Financial Officer John Nallen said on a conference
call Fox was lowering its full year forecast of earnings before
interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization (EBITDA) to
mid-to-high single digit percentage growth.
That was down from high single digit to low double digit
percentage growth that it previously announced. The company,
which owns cable networks such as Fox News and FX, reported
results for its fiscal second-quarter to Dec. 31.
Nallen said the film unit underperformed company
expectations and ratings for musical TV contests "The X Factor"
and "American Idol" were weaker-than-expected.
Evercore analyst Alan Gould said he expected Fox to lower
its forecast but maintained that "Fox is the quickest growing of
the entertainment conglomerates.
Fox said its domestic advertising revenue increased 7
percent in the quarter. That beat U.S. cable network rivals
Viacom and Time Warner Inc, which each reported
slower growth than Fox in the quarter.
The company credited the ad increase to double digit growth
at FX networks, its new sports network Fox Sports 1 and its
regional sports networks.
Fox has spending heavily on sports, going after Walt Disney
Co's ESPN on a national basis with its Fox Sports 1
channel that launched in August.
Fox said its expenses rose 22 percent to $1.6 billion in the
quarter, partly due to some of these sports investments.
On Jan. 24, it took an 80 percent stake in the YES Network,
a regional sports channel focused on the New York Yankees
Fox recorded $8.16 billion of total revenue in the quarter,
a 15 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.
Analysts were expecting revenue of $7.89 billion.
Net income was $1.2 billion, or 53 cents per share, down
from $2.38 billion a year ago, or $1.01 per share.
Excluding items such as BSkyB's share buyback
program, earnings per share were 33 cents, which matched Wall
Street estimates, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Fox's filmed entertainment unit, which includes its movie
studio, saw revenue fall 21 percent without the hits it had a
year earlier in the quarter such as "Taken 2".
It also had "higher theatrical release costs" in the quarter
for "The Secret Life of Walter Mitty" and "Walking with