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Losses continue for Oz pay TV operators

SYDNEY — Pay TV operators Australis Media and Optus Vision slipped further into the red in the six months ended Dec. 31, while Kerry Packer’s Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd. posted slightly lower revenue and net income.

Satellite service Australis disclosed it lost A$140 million ($109 million) in that period, attributed to rising costs in programming and legal expenses, and a lower-than-expected boost in sales revenue. That brings accumulated losses to more than $390 million.

However, CEO Sean O’Halloran said the fall in subscribers (it had 97,000 subs at Jan. 31, plus 129,000 via franchisees and 140,000 from cabler Foxtel) had been checked by targeting the roll-out to areas not served by cable.

Optus Vision’s losses were confirmed at about $138 million when Optus Communications, which owns 46.5% of the feevee firm, released its results.

A public float of Optus Communications will proceed this year despite the litigation involving Optus Vision, Optus CEO Ziggy Switkowski said.

PBL said revenue fell by 2.2% to $453.6 million and profit after tax and abnormal charges slipped by 3.1% to $81.3 million. However, when an abnormal gain in the first half of last year is excluded, net profit rose by 9.2%.

Managing director James Packer said the advertising market in Australia for the group’s Nine network and maga-zines remained weak, but both divisions maintained strong earnings by a continued focus on cost-cutting.

He noted that there would be no dividend this year from Arnon Milchan’s Regency Enterprises (of which PBL owns 27.3%), as the shareholders have decided to reinvest “all future profits to grow the business.”

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