News Corp posts quarterly loss as print ad sales fall

(Reuters) - News Corp NWSA.O, the owner of the Wall Street Journal, Dow Jones Newswires and book publisher HarperCollins, reported a quarterly loss as it struggles to cope with a decline in newspaper advertising sales.

Media mogul Rupert Murdoch leaves his home in London, Britain March 4, 2016. REUTERS/Stefan Wermuth

The company, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, has been reducing staff and implementing other cost-cutting measures in its Dow Jones division, which includes the Journal, while building up its digital real estate business.

Revenue in the company’s news and information division, which accounts for about two-thirds of total revenue, fell 5.3 percent to $1.22 billion in its first fiscal quarter ended Sept. 30. Advertising revenue fell 11 percent.

News Corp is not alone in its struggle to arrest a decline in print advertising.

New York Times Co NYT.N reported a nearly 20 percent drop in print ad revenue in the latest quarter, while USA Today publisher Gannett Co Inc GCI.N reported a decline of about 15 percent.

Spending on newspaper advertising in the United States is expected to fall 11 percent this year to about $12 billion, according to media research firm Magna Intelligence.

However, News Corp said revenue in its rapidly growing digital real-estate unit jumped 18.3 percent to $226 million.

Momentum in the business is expected to accelerate this year, Chief Executive Robert Thomson said in a statement.

The business includes REA Group Ltd REA.AX, a leading real estate advertising company in Australia, and Move Inc, which operates in the United States and other countries.

Revenue from the company’s book publishing business fell 4.9 percent to $389 million, compared with the year-ago quarter, which gained from the release of Harper Lee’s “Go Set a Watchman”.

The company, whose newspapers include the New York Post, the Times in London and the Australian, said its revenue fell to $1.97 billion from $2.01 billion a year earlier.

News Corp’s net loss attributable to shareholders was $15 million, or 3 cents per share, compared with a profit of $175 million, or 30 cents per share, a year earlier.

On an adjusted basis, the company reported a loss of 1 cent per share.

Analysts on average had expected the company to break even on revenue of $1.96 billion, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Up to Monday’s close of $12.22, News Corp’s shares had fallen about 8.5 percent this year.

Thomson Reuters TRI.NTRI.TO, the parent of Reuters News, competes with Dow Jones Newswires.

Reporting by Narottam Medhora in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D’Silva