UTV Media plc has reported pre-tax profits of £1m for the first six months of 2015 — down from £10m a year earlier.
Analysts said the performance of UTV Ireland, the channel founded by the Belfast-based company in January, was the “key drag” on the company’s profits.
UTV Ireland had revenue of £4.9m — more than wiped out by an operating loss of £7.5m - while revenue for the Northern Ireland TV operation was £4.2m.
And the company’s chairman said the budget deadlock in Northern Ireland was likely to have an impact on TV advertising revenues in its Belfast-based channel over the next few months.
The company this week confirmed that it is in talks over a possible sale of its TV division, which includes both UTV Ireland and the Belfast operation. It’s understood ITV is in line to buy the division.
Overall revenue at the plc — one of just three listed companies in Northern Ireland — was £58.3m. Operating profit was £2.5m, down from £11.1m a year earlier.
Earlier this year UTV said UTV Ireland was expected to make a loss of £11.5m this year.
UTV chairman Richard Huntingford said: “The challenges of establishing a new television channel are evident in these results which reflect the significant losses incurred by UTV Ireland in its first six months on air. Less evident, but not to be lost sight of, is the inherent value created by the establishment of a mainstream television channel in Europe’s fastest growing economy, with long term licensing, programme supply and infrastructure in place.”
The results did not comment on the progress of the sale of the TV division.
Gavin Kelleher of Goodbody Stockbrokers in Dublin said: “UTV Ireland remains the key drag on profits, but we remain convinced that over time this station can reach the required audience and generate an attractive return.”
Operating profit in the Northern Ireland television business was £4.2m, down from £4.9m a year earlier.
Mr Huntingford said the stability of the political situation in Northern Ireland was expected to have an impact on revenue in the third quarter.
“The budget impasse in the local assembly continues and this is expected to create a drag on our Northern Ireland television advertising revenue from Belfast in the third quarter.
Operating profit in the radio division — which includes talkSPORT, 12 local UK stations, U105 in Northern Ireland and seven stations in the Republic — was £0.9m lower at £7.9m on turnover of £34.6m.
Former UTV presenter turned Ulster Unionist leader Mike Nesbitt has urged a Northern Ireland buyer to come forward to keep the channel in local hands after the company announced a sell-off of the TV division.