Ad drought hits TF1

'01 profits down 16%

PARIS — Net profits at TF1 Group, France’s leading private free-to-air broadcaster, dropped 16% in 2001 to 210.3 million euros ($182.8 million), on revenues up 2.4% to $2 billion. Ad coin was down 4.7% to $1.3 billion.

The Gallic group blamed the drop in profits on the “big fall in advertising expenditure across the media.”

Revs from non-core businesses rose 18.4% to $719.7 million, driven by TF1’s 100% takeover of sports web Eurosport and licensing activities.

While Monday’s figures brought no surprises — TF1 had announced provisional results in January — analysts were eagerly awaiting the broadcaster’s predictions for this year.

In a statement, TF1 said revenues would rise 10% in 2002, thanks to the integration of 50% of French satellite platform TPS and the upcoming World Cup soccer championships, to which TF1 holds exclusive broadcast rights in France.

The group remained cagey about prospects for the advertising market in 2002, describing visibility in the sector as “weak.”

“But encouraging figures for the first months of the year have been accompanied by an audience hike,” a statement from TF1 said. “There may be an upturn in advertising investments in the second half of 2002, which TF1 will be well placed to profit from.”

On the Paris bourse, where it has been one of the hardest hit media stocks, group’s share price closed up 4.46 euros ($3.88) to $25.43 Monday.

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