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Southern Star profits down 79% as sales sag

SYDNEY — Sagging European demand for imported programming wiped 79% off the profits of major Australian TV and film producer-distrib Southern Star, which is conducting a cost-cutting program as its share price languishes at half its 1997 high.

Southern Star’s net profit for the six months ended Sept. 30 dropped from A$5 million ($3.2 million) to $689,000 million despite a near 5% sales hike to $47 million. While exec chairman Neil Balnaves admitted there’s “nothing to suggest Europe is coming back,” he said Southern Star is slashing costs by up to $1.3 million by speeding up the absorption of U.K. acquisitions Circle Communications and Primetime.

“There are no signs of things getting any worse as we now have much better control over costs through all the hard work in getting overheads down,” said Balnaves. “Even if sales to Europe (which account for half of the company’s sales revenues) don’t bounce back, we won’t be in a weaker position.”

Meanwhile, former Carlton central region program head Mike Blair has been appointed to the newly created London-based post as head of wildlife and factual programming for Southern Star Circle and its natural history production unit Oxford Scientific Films.

Barbara Edols has been appointed Sydney-based Southern Star Sales business operations head. Most recently, Edols was the Pacific Film and Television Commission’s general manager of commercial development, having served as a program acquisitions manager with Optus feevee service and pubcaster SBS. Earlier, she managed the North American office of the Australian Film Commission.

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