U.S. Markets closed

Fox earnings miss forecasts after cable investments

Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. and 21st Century Fox CEO, speaks during the annual Lowy Lecture at the Sydney Town Hall October 31, 2013. REUTERS/David Gray

By Lisa Richwine

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox Inc (FOXA.O) TV and film company reported quarterly earnings on Tuesday that missed Wall Street expectations, hurt by investments in new cable channels and a weaker performance from its movie releases.

Fox shares dropped 2 percent in after-hours trading to $33.40, down from their $34.09 close on Nasdaq.

Fox posted adjusted earnings-per-share of 33 cents for the quarter that ended in September, down from 38 cents a year earlier. Wall Street analysts had forecast 35 cents per share on average, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

In June, News Corp split its publishing and entertainment businesses, with the film and TV units forming the new 21st Century Fox.

For its first quarter as a separate company, Fox recorded total revenue of $7.06 billion, an 18 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.

But net income dropped as Fox invested in Fox Sports 1, a competitor to Walt Disney Co's (DIS.N) ESPN that launched in August, and FXX, a channel aimed at young adults that made its debut in September.

Quarterly income from continuing operations slumped to $768 million, down from $2.3 billion a year earlier. The previous year's quarter included $1.4 billion from an asset sale.

"The investment we are making, including the launch of FXX and Fox Sports 1, will drive future sustained growth," Murdoch said in a statement.

At the cable networks unit, operating income before depreciation and amortization, a measure of profit, fell to $991 million from $1.0 billion a year earlier. Morningstar analyst Michael Corty said the decline in the cable networks business was not surprising given the launch of the new sports channel.

"Overall, I thought the results were solid," he said.

At the film division, OIBDA dropped to $328 million from $433 million a year earlier. The studio's releases included big-budget action movie "The Wolverine" and female buddy comedy "The Heat." Those films could not match the success a year earlier of animated blockbuster "Ice Age: Continental Drift."

Fox Chief Operating Officer Chase Carey, on a conference call with analysts, said the company was on track to repurchase the $4 million in Class A shares this year that it announced on August 2013.

Carey said it was unlikely Fox would be in the market to buy TV stations.

"We're always opportunistic, but we're pretty pleased with our group," he added.

(Reporting by Lisa Richwine. Editing by Andre Grenon)