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News Corp posts surprise profit as HarperCollins profits grow

FILE PHOTO: The News Corporation logo is displayed on the side of a building in midtown Manhattan in New York, U.S., February 27, 2018. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

(Reuters) - Wall Street Journal-owner News Corp reported a surprise quarterly profit on Thursday, driven by strong growth in earnings at its book publishing and subscription video services units.

Trying to offset declines in print advertising, News Corp has been focusing on its book publishing business, which includes the famous HarperCollins brand, and its digital businesses.

"News Corp reaped rewards from our digital strategy this quarter, underscored by a robust rise in digital subscriptions across our media properties, a sharp increase in digital audio book sales," Chief Executive Robert Thomson said.

The company, controlled by media mogul Rupert Murdoch, said HarperCollins' core earnings rose 29 percent in the quarter, helped by strong sales of audio books and new releases such as 'Fing by David Walliams'.

Revenue from book publishing rose about 6 percent to $421 million, and the segment's earnings before interest, tax, amortisation and depreciation jumped 29 percent to $53 million.

Analysts' were expecting revenue of $414 million from the unit, according to IBES data from Refinitiv.

The New Foxtel, part of subscription video services division, reported an 80 percent rise in paying subscribers to 714,000, since the beginning of 2019, News Corp said.

Net income available to stockholders was $10 million, or 2 cents per share, in the three months ended March 31, compared with a loss of $1.13 billion, or $1.94 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the company reported a profit of 4 cents per share, while analysts on average expected it to breakeven on a slight net loss.

The company said revenue rose to $2.46 billion from $2.09 billion.

Thomson Reuters Inc, the parent of Reuters News, competes with News Corp's Dow Jones Newswires for financial news customers.



(Reporting by Shariq Khan in Bengaluru; Editing by Anil D'Silva and Shinjini Ganguli)