Belfast Telegraph

UTV sees its profits decrease by 10%

By Margaret Canning

Belfast-based UTV Media plc has reported a 10% fall in pre-tax profits as a slowdown in the Irish advertising market continues.

In preliminary results for the year ending December 31, 2012, the company said pre-tax profits fell to £21m. Group revenues also fell from £121.6m to £120.1m.

The Talksport owner, which also operates the Channel 3 TV licence in Northern Ireland, said operating profit in radio in Great Britain was up 5% to £13m, making it its best performing division with a strong first half of the year thanks to Euro 2012.

Talksport gets three million listeners per week in the home market, making it the company's highest-profile possession. In good news for shareholders, there was a proposed final dividend of 5.25p, resulting in full-year dividend growth of 17% to 7.00p.

And in a sign of how its main driver has changed since it was founded as Ulster Television in 1969, TV was a relatively poor performer, with operating profit down 40% to £3.9m from £6.5m.

Television sales from London performed in line with the market but Irish sales were down 12%, which accounted for the majority of the overall decline in revenue.

Group chief executive John McCann said: "This is a robust performance in what continues to be a challenging environment."

In his first statement as chairman after taking over from interim chairman Helen Kirkpatrick, Richard Huntingford said advertising was "closely aligned to the health of the economy and consumer confidence".

Mr Huntingford said: "The volatile nature of the macro-economic conditions continue to challenge all of us, but what remains constant, however, is the high quality of the leading media assets which the group holds and which enable it to maintain a competitive advantage in the markets in which it operates."

The group said highlights in 2012 including Talksport acquisition of commercial radio rights to FA Cup and Capital One Cup and the acquisition of Dublin social media business Simply Zesty.

It was also back in compliance with the UK Corporate Governance Code after the appointment of Mr Huntingford and three new non-executive directors to the board.

They were filling the vacancies caused by 2012's boardroom bust-up in which veteran chairman John B McGuckian was removed after 42 years on the board.

Belfast Telegraph