Possible sale by Murdoch


After cutting costs by consolidating his Sky Television with British Satellite Broadcasting, Rupert Murdoch has said that the News Corp., which he controls, might go a step further and sell roughly $1 billion in assets over the next three years.

Mr. Murdoch said he would sell the assets if bankers agree to defer interest payments on much of the company's bank debt, which now stands at $8.1 billion (American) or $10.3 billion (Australian).

He refused to specify what assets would be sold, but one high-level publishing executive at the company's U.S. operations said the word was that none of the American properties -- magazines, television stations, a television network, newspapers and movie businesses -- would be put on the market.

But the executive added, "Murdoch will do what needs to be done."

A spokesman for the company confirmed that Mr. Murdoch did leave open the possibility of selling the company's 50 percent stake in Ansett Airlines, the Australian domestic carrier.

The News Corp. also said Thursday that net income rose almost 54 percent to $44.1 million, or 34 cents for each American depository receipt, from $28.7 million, or 23 cents, for the quarter ended Sept. 30. Revenues jumped 49 percent, to $2.24 billion, from $1.5 billion a year earlier.

But income before extraordinary items fell 27 percent, to $20.9 million, from $28.7 million for the period last year.

A spokesman for the company said that the extraordinary items included the sale of several regional newspapers in Victoria, Australia.

The News Corp. added that profits in the United States rose to $212.7 million, from $126.3 million.

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