CanWest Global hit by refi costs, rival

Media company sees earnings slide

TORONTO — Currency exchange and the refinancing of debt took a chunk out of CanWest Global’s bottom line, and in Canada, CanWest’s Global TV is conceding defeat, for the time being anyway, to rival CTV.

Net earnings for the first quarter, ended Nov. 30, for the Winnipeg-based media company were C$35 million ($29 million), down from $66 million.

Currency exchange and refinancing charges cost about $53 million in net earnings, but the company noted that the refinancing is expected to save CanWest about $33 million annually in interest.

Consolidated revenues for the first quarter were up 9% to $717 million.

As has become a trend in recent years, CanWest’s foreign holdings have been carrying the majority of the load. Ten Television of Australia posted a 16% growth in quarterly revenues, to $203 million, and revenues at Ten’s Eye Corp. jumped 47% to $24 million.

CanWest MediaWorks of New Zealand posted a revenue increase of 18% to $30 million. At the Kiwi unit’s RadioWorks division, revenue was up 11% to $20 million.

Rev jumped 15% to $9 million at TV3 Ireland.

“Our international operations continue to score outstanding results,” said CanWest prexy-CEO Leonard Asper. In Canada, he noted that a stronger ad market helped stabilize the TV numbers, “but we still have work to do to restore Global Television to its traditional leadership position in Canadian audience ratings.”

Revenue at the company’s Canadian broadcasting operations jumped 5% to $164 million; revenue from newspaper and online operations was up 3% to $268 million.

After numerous quarters of being resoundingly beaten by Canuck rival CTV in ratings and ad revenue, CanWest finally blinked, saying in a release, “Revenues for conventional television continue to be affected by the strong ratings and increased market share of our main competitor.”