Profits up at Spain b’casters

Telecinco net profits up 72%; Antena 3 sees 30.5% increase

MADRID — Spain’s rival broadcasters Telecinco and Antena 3 posted excellent first-half numbers Thursday, with Telecinco touting its results as the company’s best ever.

First half ad revenue at Telecinco stood at a record E402.8 million ($485.9 million). Net profits increased 72% to $134.27 million.

Telecinco CEO Paolo Vasile says the improvement stems from cost controls, Spain’s ad rally and a focus on what Telecinco does best — carving out strong primetime ratings.

But Telecinco management, which launched a 34.5% free float late June, faces a small headache as it works out how to sustain its success and not raise expectations too much for second-half results.

Telecinco has seen double digit growth since the third quarter of 2003, a stiff pace to maintain.

While Telecinco suggests 10% ad growth for the second half, the Euro 2004 soccer championship pulled forward substantial ad investment from the second half of 2004, warping results.

Telecinco also overhauled pubcaster RTVE’s commercial channel TVE-1 in June to become Spain’s most-watched web with a 23.1% market share, its best result since June 2001.

Telecinco shares increased 1.2% Thursday after the announcement of results to $15.90, 30% up on its June launch price.

Meanwhile, Antena 3 CEO Maurizio Carlotti reported revenue up 20% to $495.9 million and operating cash flow up 168% to $151.4 million, yielding profits of 30.5% compared to 14% for first half 2003.

Carlotti, who became CEO when DeAPlaneta took over the broadcaster in April 2003, put through strict writedowns in the second half of last year.

Now he has slashed debt, scythed costs and seen Antena 3 grab market share from ailing pubcaster RTVE.

“This is a very strong performance,” said Enrique Jimenez, an analyst at Ibersecurities.

Net profits for January to June stood at $74.8 million. Debt has been reduced from $113.9 million at year’s end to $4.8 million.

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