News Corp shares are up again today after yesterday’s strong December quarter profit result, leaving Rupert Murdoch on the cusp of cracking $12 billion in terms of the value of the family’s shareholding and News Corp within reach of $100 billion.

The family’s shareholding may have peaked at close to $20 billion during the dotcom boom in 1999-2000 but in terms of earnings and strategic developments, the current share price surge is looking far more sustainable in the longer term.

Whilst the internet didn’t get a mention in the earnings release, Rupert and his executives were talking it up during the conference call. Revenue associated with Myspace tripled to $US75 million over the quarter, but this still comprises less than one per cent of the $US7.84 billion in total revenue clocked for the quarter.

It will be interesting to see how the ASX measures News Corp market capitalisation once it comes back into the Australian index and the Liberty Media buy back is complete.

For some bizarre reason the figures they supply Fairfax and News Ltd papers for their weekly market capitalisation league ladders are grossly overstated. The AFR valued News Corp at $159.76 billion on Monday.

The final page of yesterday’s earnings release states that News Corp had an average 2.2 billion non-voting shares and 987 million voting shares on issue in the December quarter.

With the voting shares up 19c to $32.31 and the non-voters up 21c to $30.60 in morning trade, this values the company at $99.21 billion.

However, once Liberty Media’s $16.43 billion stake is cancelled, News Corp’s market cap will come back to $82.78 billion on current prices which is well shy of BHP Billiton but bigger than Telstra and all the banks.

And after the Malone deal, a whopping 70.2 per cent of its shares will be non-voting. Whilst Rupert’s voting stake will rise to a clearly controlling 38%, his economic interest will only be 13.9% – a staggering gerrymander in anyone’s terms.

Peter Fray

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