Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp has fleshed out the poor performance of its newspaper and US TV businesses in the March quarter in its more detailed quarterly filing with the US Securities and Exchange Commission.

Even though Murdoch, along with a number of other media companies, reckoned there had been a steadying in the slump and upturn was ahead, there was none of that Murdoch forecasting wisdom in the SEC filing.

After all, America’s corporate cop wants companies to be able to support what they say, not what the chairman wants to be heard, so News had the gloomy glasses on:

The United States and global economies are currently undergoing a period of economic uncertainty, and the related capital markets are experiencing significant disruption.

In certain of the markets in which the Company’s businesses operate there has been a weakening in the economic climate due to housing market downturns and tightening of global credit markets resulting in pressure on labour markets, retail sales and consumer confidence.

These recent economic trends have adversely impacted advertising revenues at the Company’s Television, Newspapers and Information Services and Other segments, as well as on the retail sales of books and DVDs.

The Company expects that these trends will continue through at least the remainder of 2009.

The filing also provided much more detail on the performance of the various businesses. Most notable was the company’s Newspapers and Information Services (Papers plus the Dow Jones wires):

For the three months ended March 31, 2009, revenues at the Newspapers and Information Services segment decreased $US496 million, or 28%, as compared to the corresponding period of fiscal 2008.

The revenue decrease for the three months ended March 31, 2009 was primarily due to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the British pound sterling and Australian dollar on the revenues reported by the Company’s U.K. and Australian newspapers and general weakness in global advertising markets as compared to the corresponding period of fiscal 2008.

For the nine months ended March 31, 2009, revenues at the Newspapers and Information Services segment increased $54 million, or 1%, as compared to the corresponding period of fiscal 2008. The revenue increase for the nine months ended March 31, 2009 was primarily due to the inclusion of approximately $1 billion of incremental revenue from Dow Jones, which was acquired in December 2007, which was partially offset by the foreign currency impact and the advertising weakness noted above.

So, without that $US1 billion contribution from the Dow Jones Co, revenue at the papers would have been down more than $US900 million, which is a very big ouch:

During the three and nine months ended March 31, 2009, the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the British pound sterling and Australian dollar resulted in decreases of approximately 20% and 15%, respectively, in revenue as compared to the corresponding periods of fiscal 2008.

Adjusted operating income decreased $209 million, or 97%, and $185 million, or 37%, for the three and nine months ended March 31, 2009, respectively, as compared to the corresponding periods of fiscal 2008, primarily due to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar against the British pound sterling and Australian dollar, the advertising weakness noted above and restructuring charges of $23 million and $51 million in the respective periods.

And an interesting insight into the Australian newspaper market — and the most visible sign that things are not looking good:

For the three and nine months ended March 31, 2009, the Australian newspapers’ revenues decreased 38% and 22%, respectively, as compared to the corresponding periods of fiscal 2008, primarily due to lower classified and display advertising revenues and the impact of unfavourable foreign exchange fluctuation.

Peter Fray

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