Ten multiplies Canwest quarter earnings

Board members stepping down

TORONTO — CanWest Global Communications Corp. posted improved earnings Tuesday — in spite of a soft Canuck ad market — thanks to a boffo perf from the media company’s Australian Network Ten, of which CanWest owns 57%.

Beleaguered former Hollinger CEO Conrad Black and his longtime executive, David Radler, meanwhile, are leaving CanWest’s board of directors.

The two, who are at the center of a scandal involving the alleged misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars, have been on the board since shortly after CanWest Global purchased the majority of Hollinger’s Canadian newspaper holdings in 2000. They will not stand for re-election at CanWest’s annual meeting on Jan. 29.

Winnipeg-based CanWest has several outstanding lawsuits against both Hollinger Inc. and Hollinger Intl., alleging it is owed C$75 million ($57.6 million) arising from the initial and subsequent newspaper sales.

Net earnings for Winnipeg-based CanWest for the first quarter ended Nov. 30 were $62.2 million, up 19% from the same quarter a year ago. Combined revenue, which includes the company’s Network Ten holdings, was $552.6 million, in line with last year’s first-quarter figure.

Ten is topping the ratings in its 16-39 demographic, and its revenues jumped 26% to $93.3 million.

Closer to home, the company said SARS, mad cow disease, and massive forest fires contributed to an insecure economy and a slide in Canadian ad sales. Canuck TV revenue fell close to 11% to $147.2 million.

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