Rupert Murdoch‘s company says that The Wall Street Journal, which News Corp happens to own, got the story right: The media giant just put out a statement saying that it “confirmed today that it is considering a restructuring to separate its business into two distinct publicly traded companies.” News Corp shares are up more than 7% from yesterday’s $20.08 closing price in early trading based on the news that Murdoch might divide News Corp — with one company housing his thriving film and TV properties and another holding his struggling print ones. The few analysts who have already issued reports this morning say that they like the idea. It “makes sense and would be a significant positive catalyst for the stock,” says Wells Fargo Securities’ Marci Ryvicker. Miller Tabak and Co analyst David Joyce says that the change — which he figures could take about a year to complete — “would help (COO) Chase Carey focus on the entertainment assets and not be distracted by the lingering phone hacking scandal in the UK.” Joyce says that the Publishing business would probably be stuck with legal costs and settlement payments. But Credit Suisse’s Spencer Wang warns that we don’t know enough to say for sure whether a split would benefit investors. A lot would depend on how much debt News Corp attributes to each company, and how the stock ownership arrangements are structured: Each company probably would have two tiers, with Murdoch controlling the one that would enable him to maintain his control. If Sumner Redstone’s decision in 2009 to split Viacom and CBS is the precedent, then ”the positive stock reaction could be short-lived,” Wang says.
Based on back-of-the-envelope calculations, Joyce estimates that Publishing could be worth as little as $1.47 a share or as much as $2.23. Ryvicker estimated in March that the print business was worth about $2 a share but says now that she probably underestimated the value of the Journal.