Acquisitive Carlton improves to pounds 73m

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CARLTON Communications' appetite for buying television companies helped to boost its profits before tax to pounds 73m in the six months to 31 March, against pounds 55m.

But shares in the group, chaired by Michael Green, fell 22p to 901p yesterday because the result was at the low end of City expectations.

Ron Littleboy, an analyst at Nomura, said: 'There has been a change in sentiment about media stocks, even those which can expect higher than average earnings growth.'

Biggest gain came in the broadcast television division, which includes Carlton TV, Central TV - taken over in January - and associates GMTV, ITN and Meridian.

A small loss last year turned into a pounds 23m profit, while turnover grew from pounds 64m to pounds 203m. The figures include a two-month contribution from Central, formerly an associate company, while Carlton TV had its ITV franchise for only three months of the comparable period last year.

Carlton said growth in advertising revenues had been healthy in the second quarter. It had identified annual cost savings worth pounds 10m from the integration of Central TV, with more to come. Carlton and Central will combine their air time sales later in the year.

Two other divisions lifted profits - video and audio production and distribution by 16 per cent to pounds 35.6m and television and film services by 42 per cent to pounds 18.8m.

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