Terror attacks to cost Murdoch £69.4m

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch said yesterday that his News Corp media empire would take a $100m (£69m) hit to advertising revenue as a result of the terrorist attacks in the United States.

Speaking to shareholders at the company's annual meeting in Adelaide, Australia, Mr Murdoch said costs at the group's 24-hour Fox News television channel had been "blown right off budget". But the 70-year-old media veteran, who quipped his health was "terrific" and that he had no plans to step down, said the group was confident it could recoup a vast chunk of the initial losses and had reduced its cost base.

He said earnings at the group's UK newspaper business, which includes The Sun, the News of the World and The Times, were expected to be flatter than the 10 per cent year-on-year growth originally budgeted for. Mr Murdoch said: "We had originally budgeted for another 10 per cent this year but we think it will be much flatter than that."

On a more positive note he pointed to a recent pick up in the advertising market. "Revenue bookings in the past few weeks for both our TV stations and TV network have been stronger than over the past several months. In the last few days there are certainly strong rays of sunshine appearing."

The future of News Corp's deal to merge Hughes Electronics' DirecTV with News Corp's Sky Global network remained uncertain, he said, with the deal having only had a 50:50 chance of success. "If we can pull it off it is something that will add immensely to shareholder value," he added.

The group is not looking at any fresh investments, despite some bargains on offer, Mr Murdoch said. Tight cost controls implemented throughout the group had "cleared the decks" of any potential disasters and also ruled out wide-scale redundancies.

He said News Corp's film division, which includes Twentieth Century Fox, had seen a strong start to the year and was tipped to report 30 per cent overall growth on 2000/01.