Twenty-First Century Fox’s quarterly revenue beats Street

FILE PHOTO: The Twenty-First Century Fox Studios flag flies over the company building in Los Angeles
FILE PHOTO: The Twenty-First Century Fox Studios flag flies over the company building in Los Angeles, California U.S. November 6, 2017. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson /File Photo

November 8, 2017

By Jessica Toonkel and Aishwarya Venugopal

(Reuters) – Twenty-First Century Fox Inc’s <FOXA.O> quarterly revenue topped market estimates on Wednesday as higher sales from traditional and online distributors boosted its cable business.

The Rupert Murdoch-controlled company’s shares were up nearly 1 percent in extended trading.

The first-quarter results come after CNBC reported on Monday that Fox had, in the last few weeks, held talks about selling most of its film and television assets to Walt Disney Co <DIS.N>. The two sides are not currently in discussion, CNBC had reported.

At the beginning of a call with analysts, Fox’s Chairman Lachlan Murdoch, without naming Disney, said that the company would not respond to any questions regarding recent media reports.

However when asked if Fox was the right size or had the right set of assets, CEO James Murdoch said he liked the brands the company has.

“These are big brands that really matter for their customers and we like where we are,” he said.

The reported talks with Disney adds another layer of uncertainty to Fox’s bid to buy the rest the nearly 61 percent of European pay-TV group Sky Plc <SKYB.L> it does not already own in an offer worth $14.5 billion made in December.

The offer is being closely scrutinized by the British government. Nevertheless, Fox said Wednesday it expects the deal to close by June 30, 2018.

Revenue from Fox’s cable division, which houses the Fox News and FX channels among others, rose 10 percent to $4.20 billion. That beat analysts’ average estimate of $4.12 billion, according to financial data and analytics firm FactSet.

Domestic affiliate revenue, which consists of sales from its traditional and online distributors, jumped 11 percent.

Affiliate sales helped offset an 11 percent increase in expenses, primarily due to higher global sports programming costs.

In September, Fox’s Star India bid $2.55 billion for the television and streaming rights combined to a hugely popular cricket tournament in India.

Fox expects those rights to add 2 percent of cost growth and revenue in the fourth quarter, Fox told analysts.

Despite that increase, Fox said it was not concerned about the increasing cost of sports rights.

Fox said revenue rose to $7.00 billion in the quarter ended Sept. 30, higher than the $6.51 billion a year earlier and the $6.81 billion analysts were expecting, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

(Reporting by Aishwarya Venugopal in Bengaluru; Editing by Savio D’Souza and Lisa Shumaker)