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News Corp. Returns To Profit; Newspapers/Info Segment Rose Nearly 30 Percent

News Corp earnings were up across the board, as the company swung to a profit of $254 million ($0.10) in Q4, reversing $6.4 billion loss. The company said this reflected double-digit growth at its “majority business segments.” Even the newspaper/information segment was up, gaining 29.5 percent over last year’s period. While the success in the newspaper segment is noteworthy, News Corp (NYSE: NWS). chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch singled out praise for the “prudent, creative risks” of producing the box office record-breaker Avatar as helping lead the company into a sustained period of growth. In contrast to other newspaper publishers, like Gannett (NYSE: GCI) and McClatchy (NYSE: MNI), which have been able to point to slowing ad declines as representing a degree of success, the WSJ print edition was able to produce a 5 percent gain. The WSJ Digital Network did even better, generating 17 percent more revenues than it did in Q408.

To get a sense of what sort of effect Avatar had on the company, News Corp.’s filmed entertainment division’s operating income was $324 million, triple the amount it was in Q408. So far, Avatar has brought in over $2 billion, making it the highest grossing film ever.

The other juggernaut at News Corp. is Fox News, which contributed to the cable division’s 35 percent growth during the quarter.

But the one major dark spot on News Corp.’s Q4 earnings was the Integrated Marketing Services, which posted an operating loss of $414 million, versus the $86 million in operating income last year. The loss was pinned on the legal battle with Valassis Communications. News Corp reached a settlement with Valassis for $500 million this past week.

The Newspapers and Information Services segment, as the WSJ results showed, was able to grow operating income to $259 million, on both increased ad revenues and cost-cutting.