Oz’s Ten buoys CanWest

Profits up over 300% to $41.4 mil for period ending May 31

TORONTO — Thanks to a strong perf from subsid Network Ten in Australia, CanWest Global Communications last week reported a boffo bottom line for its third quarter.

Profits were up more than 300% for the period ended May 31 to C$54.3 million ($41.4 million). Earnings for the same quarter the previous year were $9.5 million.

Revenue for the quarter was up 1% to $430.7 million from $426 million.

Ten in Australia is flying high, with CanWest’s share of its revenue up 23% to $81.5 million, thanks to strong ratings and ad sales. CanWest owns 56.6% of Ten.

“The outstanding results at Ten Group and our New Zealand broadcast assets continue to demonstrate the value of CanWest’s position as a diversified international media company,” said Leonard Asper, prexy-CEO of CanWest.

CanWest’s rosy outlook is not tied to the company’s Canadian operations. Revenue at Winnipeg-based CanWest’s homegrown TV business, which has been struggling for several quarters, held steady at $158.3 million. During the period the company took a charge of $3.8 million on the cancellation of the “Mike Bullard Show.”

But at least CanWest doesn’t have Fireworks Entertainment to kick around anymore, having put what’s left of the production arm on the block and taken a $152.6 million writedown on it in the second quarter.

“Fireworks is no longer a drain on the company’s income statement,” Asper noted, “and we believe we have a modest but profitable content development strategy.” CanWest took a loss of $10.7 million on its Fireworks operations in third quarter 2003.

Performance at CanWest’s publishing division held steady, with revenue dipping slightly to $228.6 million.

The company expects proceeds from its New Zealand public flotation and the sale of Ulster Television shares to reduce its bank debt by $305.1 million in the fourth quarter.

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