Carlton profits jump 10%

LONDON — Despite increased competition in U.K. television and a lackluster video market, Carlton Communications posted a 10% rise in pretax profits to £326.7 million ($552 million) for the year ended September. Sales increased 4% to $2.96 billion.

The company’s TV division, built upon the regional ITV stations Carlton TV and Central TV, improved its sales by 15% to $1.33 billion, helped by the acquisition of Westcountry TV. Operating profits in TV grew 16% to $254 million.

Carlton’s stations make up 34% of the ITV network, which had a tough year in the face of the growth of cable and satellite, the launch of Channel 5 as a terrestrial rival and the continuing strength of the BBC. Total British TV advertising revenue grew by 8.2% in the past year, while ITV managed just 3.9% overall.

Carlton, which owns Technicolor, had a good year in film processing, buoyed by the ever-growing size of blockbuster releases in the U.S. and around the world. In 1997, there were 29 films that opened on more than 2,000 screens in the U.S., compared with just 19 films in 1994.

The film division increased operating profits by 10% to $97.9 million, with sales up 3% to $520 million. That performance was achieved despite the strong pound reducing the value of Carlton’s U.S. revenues.

But the video duplication business took a hammering from the slowdown of the vid market, with several leading titles falling well short of expectations. Sales dropped 11% to $772 million and profit fell 8% to $114 million.

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