News Corp. Takes Down Billboards

Zacks Investment Research
updated | Zacks.com

Neck deep in accusations, News Corporation (NWSA), recently announced the divestment of its 79% stake in News Outdoor Russia and News Outdoor Romania, both of which mastered in selling advertising on billboards and other surfaces. This strategic divestment marks an end to the media baron’s outdoor advertising business, except for the News Outdoor Czech Republic.

The company sold its stake to a consortium of investors including VTB Capital, NOOH Investments and Marathon Outdoor. However, financial terms of the deal were not disclosed, and the company opted to keep the remaining 21% stake in the business.

It took a month’s time for the company to better negotiate on the disinvestment of the business, which was aimed to fortify its presence in Russia and Eastern European markets.

With the descent in the global economy and Russia’s troubled investment market along with the company’s fruitless attempt to gain the government’s patronage, it was a prudent move by the company to sell its stake.

News Corp. is going through a rough patch with allegations of hacking and breach of privacy, which included illegal access to the bank account details of the former Prime Minister Gordon Brown and pilfering the medical records of his son. Moreover, the reporters of the media house were also accused of bribing royal bodyguards to source information.

News Corporation decided not to bid for the remaining 61% stake in BSkyB, following mounting pressure from political gamut on account of the phone hacking scandal that resulted in the closure of the News of the World. News Corporation continues to retain 39% ownership in BSkyB.

Earlier, the U.K. government had permitted News Corporation to acquire the satellite broadcaster BSkyB, provided the former places Sky News under independent control. To relieve apprehensions about media dominance, News Corporation offered to spin off Sky News as a separate company, which was readily accepted by Jeremy Hunt at that time.

News Corporation’s significant international presence has helped broaden its client base and product portfolio. News Corporation principally operates in the United Kingdom, Continental Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America apart from the United States.

After advertising revenue was hit hard by the economic downturn, News Corporation was striving to add diverse revenue streams to hedge against economic cycles. The retransmission and affiliate fees from cable and satellite partners for the right to retransmit broadcast programming have been another source of revenue, which the company believes would scale new heights in the next couple of years.

News Corporation has also taken a leap toward an online subscription-based model for general news content. News International, a subsidiary of News Corporation, has started charging readers for online content for The Times of London and Sunday Times of London, which was effective since June 2010.

Currently, we maintain a long-term Neutral recommendation on the stock. Moreover, News Corp., which competes with Time Warner Inc. (NYSE:TWX), holds a Zacks #3 Rank, which translates into a short-term Hold rating.

 
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