Profit news boosts Oz’s Prime TV shares

Aussie network Golden for Stokes

SYDNEY — Shares in Australia’s Prime TV, the rural affiliate of Kerry Stokes’ Seven Network, surged to record highs on Wednesday, after Prime posted a 31% increase in post-tax profits to A$10.5 million ($7 million) on a 17% improvement in sales revenue to $48 million for the six months to Dec. 31. The firm also adopted a bullish outlook for its operations in Argentina.

The result was buoyed by better-than-expected earnings from the Golden West Network, the sole TV force in rural Western Australia, which MGM part-owner Stokes sold to Prime for $47 million in November 1996.

Last year, Prime acquired Argentina’s Channel Nine for $148 million before selling a half interest to a local media player. Prime is cutting costs at Nine, which is expected to return to profitability by the end of 1998.

Prime has just clinched a deal for Nine’s programs to be carried on the Intelsat satellite from May, giving the web exposure to 95% of the Spanish-speaking world in South America, the U.S. and Europe. Another four Spanish-language soundtracks are being developed by Prime’s Argentina operations for satellite delivery.

Prime topper George Brown told reporters Prime had another offshore acquisition and two domestic buys in the pipeline and was part of a consortium bidding for Oz’s soon-to-be-privatized National Transmission Network, which runs 550 spectrum transmission sites.

Meantime, shares in Stokes’ Seven web have recovered from Tuesday’s battering that followed disappointing profit results (Daily Variety, March 11).

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