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  1. News Corp's Murdoch Upbeat Ahead Of Bumper 2nd Quarter Result
    Tuesday February 11, 3:59 pm ET


    (This item first moved Tuesday evening)
    SYDNEY -(Dow Jones)- News Corp. , the international media and entertainment group, is on the cusp of reporting a "great" quarterly result, according to Chairman Rupert Murdoch.

    In a broad-ranging interview with Australian magazine the Bulletin, Murdoch acknowledged that he "probably shouldn't" be giving that assessment of the quarterly performance, but then added: "We're very happy."

    The Bulletin interview will be published Wednesday, one day prior to the issue of News Corp.'s earnings through the end of December.

    Murdoch also was upbeat about the company's immediate prospects, describing the advertising outlook for the next several months as "extremely good."

    "You know, we're getting out among the car makers, the drug makers, the fast- food people. Business is extremely good at the moment," he said.

    However, the chairman isn't so confident about the U.S. economy, acknowledging that uncertainty over Iraq will cause people to delay investment decisions. " Because of that uncertainty, I doubt if you will see much growth this quarter," he said.

    More broadly, uncertainty in the world also has reduced Murdoch's risk appetite.

    "I think there are enough uncertainties in the world at the moment. I am optimistic, but I'm certainly in no mood to bet the company. I'd like to see the future a bit more clearly," he said.

    In keeping with that remark, the chairman is playing a cool hand when it comes to Hughes Electronics Corp.'s (GMH) DirecTV, the U.S. satellite TV business he has long coveted.

    News Corp. isn't in talks to buy the business and hasn't made an offer for it, he said.

    "We would like it, or a part of it, but the answer is not at any price. It's obviously, strategically, a good thing to have, but it's not the end of the world if we don't get it."

    Murdoch said Microsoft Corp. (NasdaqNM:MSFT - News) hasn't joined News Corp. to make a move on DirecTV, and there is "no firm deal" regarding a joint approach with Liberty Media Corp. (LMCB).

    As for the possible availability of Charlie Ergen's Echostar Communications Corp. (NasdaqNM:DISH - News) , DirecTV's rival, Murdoch said he has spoken to Ergen but doesn't believe the business is really for sale.

    Even so, EchoStar would cost more than DirecTV and would be less appealing, he said.

    Asked about the declining importance of print operations within News Corp., Murdoch said they remain his favorite area. However, "it is true that there has been more growth in television in the U.S. than anywhere else.

    "That's really coming out of the 35 stations, which we now own in the U.S. And from the cable channels. Fox News is now in solid profits, FX is, Fox Sports is. I think you'll see the fastest growth in a short term coming from those cable channels," he said.

    For example, National Geographic in the space of a few months has gone to 45 million homes, marking a record for a cable channel, he said.

    In the U.K., the British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY) pay TV business is in "solid profit," and pursuing growth as fast as possible.

    However, Murdoch acknowledged that interactive shopping has yet to take off.

    "It's going to be pretty slow. It will grow, but not to astronomical heights - that would be my expectation," he said.

    Star TV, a pay TV business in Asia, has turned from a "fairly heavy bleeder" into a company that is posting a "tiny profit," he said.

    Business has been particularly good in India, and while there also is "good progress" in China, Murdoch said he isn't counting his chickens too soon.

    -By Helen Ubels, Dow Jones Newswires;

    61-2-8235-2950; [email protected]

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