News Corp.’s James Murdoch Expects Asia, Sports to Fuel Growth

News Corp. executive James Murdoch, son of the media company’s founder Rupert Murdoch, said viewers in Southeast Asia and Latin America will help fuel growth for its cable-programming business in the next two to three years.

“India is a very important market for us -- it’s one of our largest international markets,” Murdoch, who serves as deputy chief operating officer, said yesterday at an investment conference hosted by Morgan Stanley in San Francisco. “We’ve also made great strides in South America over the last few years, particularly the launch of our sports business there.”

News Corp. also wants to streamline some of its overseas businesses that aren’t consolidated, Murdoch said. Last month, the company increased its stake in German pay-TV company Sky Deutschland AG, giving it majority control and putting it a step closer to creating a pan-European broadcaster. It suffered a setback in those ambitions in 2011, when a scandal involving its U.K. newspapers prompted it to drop an attempt to acquire the entirety of British Sky Broadcasting Group Plc.

“There is some unfinished business there, but there are no immediate plans on that,” Murdoch said yesterday.

Adding assets such as BSkyB would increase the value of News Corp.’s television business, which Chief Executive Officer Rupert Murdoch plans to split off from the declining publishing division by the middle of this year. The idea is to form a faster-growing company by freeing News Corp.’s Twentieth Century Fox film studio and the Fox cable and broadcast networks from the weight of newspapers, where ad dollars and circulation are falling industrywide.

Sports Network

The company also is looking to build a national U.S. sports cable network to compete against Disney Co.’s ESPN, people familiar with the matter said last March. In November, News Corp. agreed to acquire a 49 percent stake in the YES Network, which broadcasts New York Yankees baseball games.

In December, News Corp. said its publishing business lost $2.1 billion in fiscal 2012 because of restructuring, falling sales and the costs of a U.K. hacking scandal. For the three months ended in December, the publishing division generated $234 million in operating income, little changed from a year earlier.

Journalists at the company’s U.K. publishing group were charged with phone hacking, leading to dozens of arrests and the closure of the News of the World tabloid newspaper in July 2011. A parallel bribery probe is also under way.

News Corp. shares fell 2 percent to $28 yesterday in New York. The stock has risen 9.8 percent this year, beating the 4.3 percent gain for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index.

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