3 top nets post profits as Japan’s stocks rally

NTV, Fuji, TBS benefiting from economic recovery

TOKYO — Japan’s nascent economic recovery helped boost profits and share prices for the country’s three major commercial networks in the first half of the fiscal year, which ended Sept. 30, despite slow growth in advertising revenues.

Revenue leader Fuji Television Network increased operating profits by 48% to 17.2 billion yen ($164 million) despite posting a revenue fall of 0.8% in the April-June period with income of $1.4 billion. Net profit was up 58% over the April-September period of 1998 at $93 million.

Cost reduction and an improved cost-to-sales ratio helped Fuji TV post the strong profit numbers.

Thanks to news of the profit report, released Wednesday, and a Thursday announcement that the net was planning to set up an Internet music company in the U.S., Fuji TV shares rose $594.70 to close at $9326.45 at the end of trading Thursday.

Tokyo Broadcasting System posted net profit growth in the period of 36% to $50.5 million after a massive cost-cutting campaign.

TBS shares top record

TBS stock soared to a record high of $32.28 on Nov. 11 and has dropped a bit since then due to profit taking. But TBS shares have been on a roll for most of 1999 since the low for the year, $11.47, was posted Jan. 5.

News last week that TBS plans to form an interactive satellite broadcaster with companies in telecom giant NTT’s group, along with electronics maker Matsushita and others, was greeted favorably by the market.

Ratings leader Nippon Television Network (NTV) posted a net profit rise of 40% to $179 million in the first half of the fiscal year; its shares on the Tokyo Stock Exchange have gone up from the $570 level posted in early August trading to about $944.

Not to be outdone by its rivals, NTV announced Thursday that it was mulling a telecom and multimedia joint venture with Hughes Electronics. The two companies have agreed to establish a joint research venture.