Emap profit of pounds 51m puts feud in back seat

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Emap, the media company in the throes of a boardroom bust-up, yesterday took a breather from its management misfortunes to announce sharply higher interim profits of pounds 50.6m, up 34 per cent.

The company also booked a pre-tax profit gain of pounds 113.5m from the sale of its newspaper and printing businesses to Johnston Press, following a pounds 217m deal completed earlier this year. Turnover was ahead 16 per cent at pounds 388.3m

Several media analysts upgraded their forecasts for the full year, pointing out that the newspaper sale had resulted in a lower tax charge than many had expected. Full-year forecasts range to as high as pounds 118m, or 37p a share.

Insiders conceded that the results were a welcome diversion from a long- simmering boardroom dispute between two renegade independent directors, Joe Cooke and Ken Simmonds, who are to fight the board's plans to fire them at an extraordinary meeting on 2 December.

The company declined to provide further details yesterday of succession plans, which have been widely aired in recent weeks. According to informed sources, Robin Miller, the chief executive, is likely to become non-executive chairman when Sir John Hoskyns stands down. Sir John told analysts yesterday that he was unlikely to do so before 1998.

Mr Miller and the managing director, David Arculus, have had several disagreements over strategy, but sources close to the company insisted last night they were not serious. Mr Arculus is expected to become chief executive if Mr Miller rises to the chairmanship.

The two renegade board directors have sent letters to all shareholders asking for support against their dismissal. The two argue that the interests of good corporate governance require strong independent representation on the board. Their battle with management flared last summer, when they opposed proposals, approved by shareholders, to reduce the minimum number of board members and dispense with the need to consult shareholders if 75 per cent of board agreed to dismiss directors. Institutional shareholders are widely expected to support management, and agree to dismiss the two men.

The six-month period saw the first results from Tele Star, the French listing magazine, as well as sharply higher returns from commercial radio, following the purchase of the Metro Radio group. Radio profits breached pounds 10m, up 85 per cent year-on-year.

Consumer magazines, one of the group's core businesses, saw operating profits rise 11 per cent to pounds 19.9m, on turnover ahead 8 per cent at pounds 115.6m. Strong advertising growth in the UK, expected to continue into the second half, was the main driver of climbing profits. The French consumer magazine businesses, boosted by the Tele Star acquisition, saw profits soar by 108 per cent to pounds 13.4m.