News Corp.’s (NASDAQ:NWS)(NASDAQ:NWSA) board has reportedly approved the split of the $60 billion media group, which will likely result in the separation of its publishing and entertainment arms. Both the Wall Street Journal and Reuters reported that the separation could be announced later on Thursday.
The move is seen as defensive, allowing the company to shield its more profitable TV operations from the slow growth and scandal of its U.K. newspaper business.
News Corp.’s education and publishing businesses include the Sun and the Times newspapers in the U.K. — the company shut down News of the World there last summer shortly after becoming embroiled in a major media scandal over phone hacking — the Australian newspaper, and the book publisher HarperCollins, a co-defendant in suits brought against publishers and Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) over alleged e-book price collusion.
Altogether, News Corp.’s education and publishing businesses account for $8.8 billion in annual revenues, while the conglomerate’s film and television businesses, which include 20th Century Fox, Fox broadcast network, and Fox News Channel, as well as British Sky Broadcasting, in which News Corp. has a 39 percent stake, together generated $23.5 billion in revenues in the year to June 2011.
In a brief statement on Tuesday, in response to media speculation and rumors, News Corp. said that it was “considering” splitting the company. However, the Wall Street Journal reports that News Corp. has already enlisted investment banks JPMorgan (NYSE:JPM), Goldman Sachs (NYSE:GS), and Centerview to advise on a process.
Rupert Murdoch and his family control just under 40 percent of the shareholder votes, which means they would need only to win the backing of an additional 10 percent to push through the move. Getting shareholders on board is unlikely to pose much of a problem, as the split is thought to be the best way to increase the company’s value.
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