Corp investors push for role split
News Corp investors have renewed calls for Rupert Murdoch to split the roles of chairman and CEO, as well as eliminating the two-tier share structure that gives the Murdoch family control of the company despite holding a minority stake.
Christian Brothers Investment Services (CBIS), which manages $US4.6 billion for Catholic institutions worldwide, introduced the resolution, which is backed by the UK's Local Authority Pension Fund Forum and British Columbia Investment Management Corporation - one of Canada's largest institutional investors.
Nathan Cummings Foundation, an ethical investment group, has separately called on News Corp to end the dual-class share structure. This ensures the Murdoch family controls 40 per cent of the company's votes despite owning just 12 per cent of News Corp through its ownership of class B common stock, which hold the voting rights.
"A resolution introduced at last year's meeting which called for an independent chairman was approved by two-thirds of the independent shareholders, while another calling for the elimination of the company's dual-class share structure was approved by 62 per cent of the public shareholders," Christian Brothers said.
The news broke just before the release of News Corp's third-quarter profit announcement on Thursday morning that beat analysts' estimates thanks to increased licensing fees for cable networks such as Fox News.
It will be the last results posted for the group, with News Corp due to split into two entities next month, separating its entertainment/broadcast assets from its publishing business.
News Corp shares have gained more than 50 per cent over the past year following News Corp's announcement of the split.
The company nearly tripled third-quarter net profit to $US2.85 billion ($2.81 billion), thanks to gains from taking additional ownership in Sky Deutschland and Fox Sports Australia and selling a stake in Sky Network TV in New Zealand.
Taking away the one-off gains, operating income increased 4 per cent to $US1.36 billion in line with expectations.
Results at the television businesses underscore Mr Murdoch's decision to split its entertainment assets from the declining publishing unit, where earnings sagged 35 per cent. Cable-network revenue rose 17 per cent, led by international growth in fees from pay TV systems and advertising. Payments to rebroadcast Fox on cable and satellite TV almost doubled.
The company's Australian newspapers continue to drag down earnings.
Publishing reported operating income of $US85 million, a $US45 million decrease from the $US130 million reported in the same period a year ago.
"Increased contributions from the UK newspapers, which benefited from the launch of the Sunday edition of The Sun in February 2012, were more than offset by lower advertising revenues at the Australian newspapers and integrated marketing services businesses," News Corporation said.
The proposed split should happen "near the end" of the fiscal year that runs through to June, Mr Murdoch said.
News Corp is planning an investor day in Australia on June 5, one week after a similar briefing in New York, to help spruik the publishing spin-off that will retain the News Corp name and all of its Australian businesses including stakes in Foxtel and Realestate.com.au. The business split is scheduled for the end of June.