News Corp spinoffs start preliminary trading

(Reuters) - News Corp’s publishing and entertainment arms began trading separately on a preliminary basis on Wednesday, one of the last steps before Rupert Murdoch’s company officially splits in two on June 28.

The News Corporation building is seen in New York, July 13, 2011. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

Shares of the new News Corp, the publishing arm that includes properties such as The Wall Street Journal, opened at $15.28 on Nasdaq, trading on a “when-issued” basis under the symbol “NWSAV.”

The shares were up 4.5 percent at mid-morning at $15.95 and were the second-most-active issue on Nasdaq with more than 20 million shares changing hands.

Brett Harriss, an analyst with Gabelli & Co, expects the shares to trade in a range of $20 to $24. He called the stock “attractive” at current levels.

The publishing company, which will retain the News Corp name and stock symbol, includes The Times of London, Australian pay-TV services, book publisher HarperCollins and fledgling education unit Amplify.

The entertainment division includes the Fox News cable channel, 20th Century Fox studio and Fox broadcasting. It will be renamed 21st Century Fox and will trade under the symbol “FOX” on Nasdaq.

Trading on a when-issued basis, 21st Century Fox stood at $28.07, little changed from its opening at $28.15. Volume was much lighter than for the new News Corp, with about 4.2 million shares traded.

Current News Corp stakeholders receive one share in the new publishing company for every four shares of the existing company they hold.

The new News Corp, even with its asset mix and a cash pile of $2.6 billion, is spinning out during perilous times for newspapers that are facing unrelenting advertising declines. News Corp said in May it will write down the value of its Australian and U.S. publishing assets by up to $1.4 billion.

Murdoch will control both companies through his roughly 40 percent stake in Class B voting shares.

Reporting by Jennifer Saba in New York; Editing by John Wallace