Press Release: News Corporation Reports Second -3-
Free cash flow available to News Corporation in the six months ended December 31, 2020 was $277 million compared to $(96) million in the prior year period. The improvement was primarily due to higher cash provided by operating activities, as mentioned above, and lower capital expenditures. Foxtel's capital expenditures for the six months ended December 31, 2020 were $79 million, compared to $129 million in the prior year.
Free cash flow available to News Corporation is a non-GAAP financial measure defined as net cash provided by operating activities, less capital expenditures ("free cash flow"), less REA Group free cash flow, plus cash dividends received from REA Group.
The Company considers free cash flow available to News Corporation to provide useful information to management and investors about the amount of cash that is available to be used to strengthen the Company's balance sheet and for strategic opportunities including, among others, investing in the Company's business, strategic acquisitions, dividend payouts and repurchasing stock. The Company believes excluding REA Group's free cash flow and including dividends received from REA Group provides users of its consolidated financial statements with a measure of the amount of cash flow that is readily available to the Company, as REA Group is a separately listed public company in Australia and must declare a dividend in order for the Company to have access to its share of REA Group's cash balance. The Company believes free cash flow available to News Corporation provides a more conservative view of the Company's free cash flow because this presentation includes only that amount of cash the Company actually receives from REA Group, which has generally been lower than the Company's unadjusted free cash flow. A limitation of free cash flow available to News Corporation is that it does not represent the total increase or decrease in the cash balance for the period. Management compensates for the limitation of free cash flow available to News Corporation by also relying on the net change in cash and cash equivalents as presented in the Company's consolidated statements of cash flows prepared in accordance with GAAP which incorporates all cash movements during the period.
COVID-19 Impact and Outlook
The ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and measures to prevent its spread continue to create significant economic volatility, uncertainty and disruption, affecting the Company's businesses in a number of ways. The discussion below summarizes the effects on the Company's businesses during the six months ended December 31, 2020 and through the date of this filing, as well as expected trends for the second half of fiscal 2021:
Digital Real Estate Services: The real estate markets in Australia, Asia and the U.S. have been, and may continue to be, impacted as a result of social distancing measures, business closures and economic uncertainty resulting from COVID-19. In January, national residential listings in Australia were flat compared to the prior year with a 12% increase in Melbourne and a 1% decline in Sydney. Consumer confidence is improving as COVID-19 cases remain extremely low in Australia. Based on the current market outlook and excluding the impact of acquisitions, REA Group expects core operating costs for fiscal 2021 to be broadly in-line with the prior year. Second half results will be impacted by the consolidation of Elara. In the U.S., Move is benefiting from strong consumer demand, with unique users and leads at all-time highs, despite active listings across the industry remaining at historically low levels. Unique users at realtor.com(R) in January grew 37% year-over-year to a record 94 million. Higher expected revenues driven by growth in traffic and lead volumes will fund reinvestment in the second half of fiscal 2021. The Company expects to invest an additional $40 million in brand marketing and product development compared to the prior year to drive further market share and expand into adjacent verticals.
Subscription Video Services: Foxtel's revenue trends have been better than anticipated in the first half of fiscal 2021, with higher ARPU offsetting higher churn, resulting in lower year-over-year revenue declines in residential broadcast. Broadcast churn is expected to remain elevated due to the suspension of government stimulus payments and Foxtel's ongoing emphasis on ARPU. In addition, higher average OTT subscribers through January should result in higher than expected OTT revenue for the full year. The ongoing disruption in operations at pubs and clubs from government imposed occupancy restrictions and lower occupancy at hotels throughout Australia due to the domestic travel restrictions are expected to continue to adversely impact commercial subscription revenue. Given Foxtel's continued investment in its OTT products as well as higher costs from the higher revenue, the Company now expects the full year overall net cost reductions to be less than $73 million (A$100 million), compared to the previous estimate of net A$160 million ($117 million), inclusive of approximately $58 million (A$80 million) of higher sports costs in the second half of fiscal 2021, particularly in the fourth quarter, compared to the prior year. U.S. dollar amounts are converted by using the fiscal 2021 second quarter average exchange rate (See Note 2).
Dow Jones and News Media: COVID-19 continues to exacerbate print advertising weakness and negatively impact weekday print volumes due to increased economic uncertainty and lower demand for single copy and amenity newspapers driven by decreased foot traffic resulting from remote working, social distancing measures and other government restrictions. The latest national lockdown in the U.K., the continuation of remote working in the U.S. and, to a lesser extent, the current domestic travel restrictions in Australia are expected to continue to negatively impact these revenue streams in the second half of the fiscal year. However, the Company has seen increases in digital paid subscriptions and digital audience gains at online versions of many of its news properties. Additionally, the Company implemented strict and immediate discretionary cost controls towards the end of fiscal 2020 in response to COVID-19 and related uncertainty. At the News Media segment, cost declines in the second half are expected to moderate from the rate of decline in the first half as the Company laps these COVID-19 related cost savings as well as the sale of News America Marketing. At Dow Jones, given the performance in the first half of fiscal 2021, the Company expects expenses to increase modestly in the second half compared to the prior year period as the Company reinvests in its digital assets to drive longer-term growth.
Book Publishing: While the Company has benefited from changing consumer behavior as a consequence of COVID-19, such as the increase in free time for consumers to read and the increase in the average number of books purchased, the Company continues to monitor the sustainability of these recent consumer patterns. Currently the Company is expecting performance to moderate in the second half of fiscal 2021, particularly in the fourth quarter, in part due to the strong performance in the prior year, which benefited from increased consumer demand at the onset of COVID-19 lockdowns and restrictions.
Other: The Company expects costs to increase by at least $50 million in the second half of fiscal 2021, primarily due to higher employee costs related to stock price performance, the absence of the bonus reductions for certain employees, including the senior executive team, implemented in the prior year in response to COVID-19, as well as initial investment spending as the Company ramps up the global shared services initiative.
The Company today declared a semi-annual cash dividend of $0.10 per share for Class A Common Stock and Class B Common Stock. This dividend is payable on April 14, 2021 to stockholders of record as of March 17, 2021.
COMPARISON OF NON-GAAP TO U.S. GAAP INFORMATION
Adjusted Revenues, Total Segment EBITDA, Adjusted Total Segment EBITDA, Adjusted Segment EBITDA, adjusted net income attributable to News Corporation stockholders, Adjusted EPS and free cash flow available to News Corporation are non-GAAP financial measures contained in this earnings release. The Company believes these measures are important tools for investors and analysts to use in assessing the Company's underlying business performance and to provide for more meaningful comparisons of the Company's operating performance between periods. These measures also allow investors and analysts to view the Company's business from the same perspective as Company management. These non-GAAP measures may be different than similar measures used by other companies and should be considered in addition to, not as a substitute for, measures of financial performance calculated in accordance with GAAP. Reconciliations for the differences between non-GAAP measures used in this earnings release and comparable financial measures calculated in accordance with U.S. GAAP are included in Notes 1, 2 and 3 and the reconciliation of net cash provided by operating activities to free cash flow available to News Corporation is included above.
News Corporation's earnings conference call can be heard live at 4:30pm EST on February 4, 2021. To listen to the call, please visit http://investors.newscorp.com.
Cautionary Statement Concerning Forward-Looking Statements
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February 04, 2021 16:40 ET (21:40 GMT)