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Numbers pushed at SBS

Operating cash flow to jump 115%

AMSTERDAM — Net profit for Pan-European channel launcher SBS Broadcasting shot up in the first half of 2003 by 452% on a net revenue rise of 11%.

The numbers were pushed by “greatly improved audience ratings,” particularly at the Swedish and Hungarian channels, CEO Markus Tellenbach told Daily Variety.

SBS posted a half-year net profit of e7.6 million ($8.7 million), up from a loss of $2.5 million in the first six months of 2002. Revenues for the first half year rose to $311 million, up from $279 million a year earlier.

It is one of the best report cards the 13-year-old Euro broadcaster has turned in and the first time it has made a profit at half year. A year ago it posted its first quarterly profit.

Net revs rose year on year at Kanal 5 in Sweden and at TV2 in Hungary by 36% and 26% respectively. Tellenbach scotched industry rumors SBS might try to unload its Hungarian channel. “Next year Europe will grow by 75 million additional potential viewers, and with our Hungarian and Polish interests, we intend to fully participate in the growth fueled by the European community expansion,” he added.

The Dutch channels, which usually are the shining stars in the SBS network, came in with a weaker than usual 8% rise in revs from a year ago.

Aside from a tender for a station in Croatia, Tellenbach said there were no plans for expansion in Central and Eastern Europe where SBS’s chief ri-vals Central European Media Enterprises and Modern Times Group are continuing to expand.

SBS’s station operating cash flow in first half year 2003 jumped 115% to $41 million, up from $19 million a year earlier. Net revenues in the second quarter rose 14% to $178 million but profit fell 9% to $18.6 million due to increased taxes in Hungary and Sweden and foreign exchange losses in Hungary.

Radio revs fell slightly in the first half year and second quarter but SBS is putting faith the medium will deliver down the road. When a flurry of deals struck earlier this month go through, it will have 52 channels in the Nordic territories.

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