Business

Murdoch abandons Fox-News Corp merger after investor pushback

Rupert Murdoch has abandoned a proposal to combine Fox and News Corp after shareholders resisted his bid to reunite the two halves of his media empire.

Murdoch’s companies announced Tuesday that “special committees” set up to investigate the terms of the proposed merger would be dissolved immediately, saying the proposal did not serve the interests of Fox and News shareholders “at this time.”

Fox and News Corp said Murdoch and his son Lachlan had determined the combination was “not optimal” for shareholders, an acknowledgment of reservations from major investors who feared the merger would fail to realize the full value of the assets.

In addition to abandoning the planned merger, News Corp is in advanced talks to sell its 80 percent stake in Move to rival CoStar, according to three people briefed on the talks.

The stake in Move, which operates realtor.com in the US, among other real estate websites, is valued in the “low billions” of dollars, the people added.

The sale of Move’s stake would be significant enough in size to change the calculus for committees evaluating the Fox-News Corp merger, one of the people said.

Murdoch, 91, proposed in October to recombine the television group behind cable channel Fox News with the owner of newspapers, including The Wall Street Journal, in a deal that would bring together the remnants of his empire after nearly a decade of separation.

Murdoch believed there were opportunities for collaboration between Fox and News Corp.’s business news brands, including Fox Business, Fox News, Baron, MarketWatch and The Wall Street Journal, people familiar with the plans said.

However, it faced resistance from some major News Corp shareholders who thought the combined company would be worth less on the stock market than the individual groups.

News Corp owns about 80 percent of Move, with the remaining 20 percent held by REA Group, a listed Australian real estate group that is also majority owned by News Corp.

CoStar owns Nasdaq-listed brands including Apartments.com, LoopNet and Homes.com. The group is one of the largest digital real estate companies in America, with a market value of approximately $32 billion.

Digital real estate has become a much bigger part of News Corp’s overall business, growing from 5 percent of total revenue in 2014 to 17 percent in 2022. Revenue in the group’s digital real estate segment grew 25 percent to more than $1.7 billion in fiscal year 2022. Move saw revenue grow 11 percent to $712 million last year.

News Corp bought Move for $950 million in 2014, a deal that CEO Robert Thomson described at the time as “exponential growth” of the company’s print publishing business.

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