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News Corp chief says no immediate plans to expand media empire
( 2002-05-23 16:37 ) (7 )

Rupert Murdoch said Thursday his media empire News Corp. is not looking to expand through acquisitions in the near future.

The Australian-based company last week posted a net profit excluding special charges of US$ 236 million for the first quarter to March -- an 86 percent increase from the same period a year earlier.

Murdoch, speaking to a CLSA Ltd investors forum via video link from the United States, said News Corp had no immediate plans to expand after major investments in cable and satellite television over recent years.

"Now, with the apparent beginning of the economy's return to health, we look forward to getting more traction in all our international markets and posting even better results," he told the investment bank's forum.

Murdoch said the company's positive results in the US and continental Europe were an indication of the considerable improvements in those markets and that there were signs of a rising contribution from other markets.

"We hope that the other markets in which we operate will soon follow suit," the Australian-born chairman and chief executive said.

"In this positive context, and given our positive results... I find it ironic that our stock price and valuations are at near four-year lows.

"I don't know a time in our company's history when our balance sheet has been as fundamentally as strong as it is today."

News Corp's growth outlook for the next few years was based on a growing market share, keeping cash reserves and paying down debt, Murdoch said.

"With cash-flow operations now at an all-time high, we are better able to pay down debt and to capitalise on future opportunities.

"With not one growth engine, but nearly a dozen operating at full strength, we have nothing but confidence with regard to our up-coming quarters," he said.

News Corp said last week it took a 4.2 billion-dollar writedown on the value of its Gemstar unit, an electronic and print TV guide business in which it owns a 43 percent stake, due to new accounting rules.

The writedown resulted in the company reporting a first quarter net loss of 3.99 billion dollars.

Murdoch said Thursday the company would devote more time to Gemstar's business and that it would continue to be an "extremely powerful asset".

The company's recent writedowns of its investments in Gemstar and Germany's KirchMedia group were "examples of costly mistakes," he said.

News did not see opportunities within the "rubble" of Kirch and was also unlikely to be interested in buying Britain's Channel 5 despite proposed changes to television business ownership rules in Britain.



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