Breaking up News Corp.
Murdoch does the splits.
Investors like the idea of hiving off the group's newspaper arm.
SHAKESPEARE mused that "It is beyond the power of man to bring love and wisdom to an union."
News Corporation's shareholders have long agreed, arguing that Rupert Murdoch's abiding love for newsprint has clouded his judgment and tainted his media empire. The sluggish growth and the legal cases besetting News Corp's publishing arm set it in sharp contrast to the group's robust film and television assets, which account for three-quarters of revenues and almost all operating profit.
After months of hinting that it may heed investors and separate the two parts, News Corp's board met on June 27th to approve a split, and was set to confirm its decision as The Economist went to press. (Update: The firm has since announced its plans for a split.)
News that a split was under consideration sent News Corp's share price up by around 10%. At over $22, it is now at its highest since 2007. This bolstered the view that dividing the group will boost both companies and reward shareholders.
After the phone-hacking scandal at News Corp's British newspaper arm-which is still being investigated by Lord Justice Leveson, a senior judge-the group had to drop its bid for full ownership of BSkyB, a profitable satellite broadcaster; it already owns 39%. Separating the publishing division and giving it a new boss may not be enough to overcome regulatory obstacles to News Corp taking full ownership of BSkyB. But it should help protect the entertainment businesses from the scandal's rising legal costs, and at least ward off pressure for News Corp to sell its existing stake.
Besides closing the News of the World in the wake of the hacking scandal, News Corp has recently rid itself of another sour asset, MySpace (an ailing social-media site), and initiated a $10 billion share buy-back (which will have the side-effect of enlarging the Murdochs' 40% stake). Such moves have supported the group's share price and pleased shareholders. But splitting the company in two is the "ultimate dream" of investors, says Michael Nathanson of Nomura, a stockbroker.
Analysts worry that News Corp is still juggling too many minority stakes in smaller companies, such as Hulu (online video) and Tata Sky (Indian satellite television). Todd Juenger of Sanford C. Bernstein, an investment bank, also worries about the $11 billion of idle cash on News Corp's balance-sheet. However, Chase Carey, the group's chief operating officer, has been busy trying to sort out its tangle of holdings, selling some of its minority stakes at a profit and buying full control of other holdings. Investors seem prepared to cut Mr Carey some slack while he does so. Any reorganisation of the top table will probably keep him just below Rupert Murdoch, leaving his son James Murdoch, who gave up the chairmanship of News Corp's British newspaper arm after the scandal, out of the spotlight for now.
新闻集团在太多相对小型的公司（如在线视频网站葫芦网以及印度卫星电视塔塔天空）都持有一小部分股份（言外之意是持股太分散了），分析人士对此表示担忧。托德·乔根，是来自一家名为桑福德·伯恩斯坦（Sanford C. Bernstein）投资银行。他对新闻集团资产债务表上110亿美元的闲置现金表示担心。然而，新闻集团的COO（首席运营官）切丝·凯里则忙于整理混乱的持股，获利出售一部分新闻集团占少数股权公司的股份，同时收购一些股份以实现占大股份公司的全部控股。尽管他如此做，但投资者看似准备放过凯里一马（参考译法：投资者似乎准备助其一臂之力）。高层的任何重组都很有可能使得凯里的地位仅次于鲁伯特·默多克，从而让默多克的儿子詹姆士·默多克暂时脱身于公众聚焦。窃听门丑闻发生后，詹姆士·默多克辞去了新闻集团英国报业执行主席一职。
The fastest-growing parts of the company are its television and cable businesses. News Corp was shrewd in understanding the market for conservative political TV in America: the core audience of Fox News creates a stable cashflow. The company has also made wise investments in sports broadcasting, which viewers still prefer to watch live (making it more attractive to advertisers). BSkyB owns the lion's share of Britain's football rights, Fox has American football, and its cable network hosts NASCAR races. The company is expanding its holdings in Australia and Latin America, and is considering a new national sports network in America to rival ESPN.
The portfolio of newspapers in News Corp's publishing arm (which also includes HarperCollins, a big book publisher) encompasses loss-makers like the London Times and the New York Post, as well as the Wall Street Journal, which Mr Murdoch paid too much for but which at least is in profit, and the Sun, a populist cash-cow. The newspaper business may not be growing, but it generates enough cashflow to sustain itself, says Jeff Logsdon of BMO Capital Markets. It is unlikely that the company will try to offload its British papers while Mr Murdoch is still alive, in part because the phone-hacking trials could go on for years.
The ideal outcome for investors may be a repeat of what happened when Viacom, a film and cable giant, spun off its broadcast arm, CBS, in 2005. Sumner Redstone remained chairman of both sides but Leslie Moonves, given the job of running the supposedly sluggish CBS part, showed that it could be revived-since when the shares of both businesses have risen.