ProSieben profit jumps

Earnings reach $36.3 mil on sales of $543 mil

BERLIN — Citing lower costs and growth from new businesses, Haim Saban’s ProSiebenSat 1 TV group reported Friday that net profit rose 14% in the first quarter despite a slight drop in revenue.

It’s more positive news for Saban, who is reportedly entertaining offers for the group from publishing giant Axel Springer and NBC Universal.

Speculation about an NBC Universal bid heated up following an article in the Financial Times in which top brass expressed interest in acquisitions in Germany. ProSiebenSat 1 execs declined to comment.

Earnings (profit) at ProSiebenSat1 reached E28.7 million ($36.3 million) on sales of $543 million, down more than $7.5 million from the same period last year. Company attributed the dip to a “still-overcast TV advertising market.”

“The year started weaker than we expected,” said chief exec Guillaume de Posch, speaking at the annual shareholders meeting in Munich. “The sluggish German economy still prevents companies from increasing their ad spending.”

ProSiebenSat 1 expects the German TV advertising market to decline about 2% in 2005 as “consumers remain wary.”

Yet de Posch said further cost cutting and an increase in sales from its shopping channels and growing mobile phone and Internet business would help ProSiebenSat 1 meet its full-year forecast.

The CEO also reiterated plans to start pay webs in Germany. In February, it launched ProSiebenSat 1 Welt, a German-language feevee aimed at 1 million German-speaking viewers in the U.S.

Meanwhile, ProSiebenSat 1 shareholders appointed Saban’s brother Arieh Saban to replace former BSkyB topper Tony Ball on the group’s supervisory board. Ball ankled in April to become chair of the advisory board at Kabel Deutschland, Germany’s largest cable group.

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