Emap ready to expand in radio

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THE PUBLISHING group Emap is poised to expand its radio interests if the Radio Authority liberalises ownership rules, Robin Miller, the chief executive said yesterday, writes Gail Counsell.

Mr Miller said that the group, which already owns local stations such as Kiss FM in London and Radio City in Liverpool, saw radio as an inexpensive way of acquiring non-print media expertise.

'Radio is always going to be a relatively small business but if we can make reasonable profits from it, it is a way we can learn about non-print media and that may lead to other things,' he said.

There is growing speculation that the Government will combine a relaxation of the rules on the ownership of independent television stations, which are likely to be announced later this week, with an easing of comparable rules on radio and cross-media ownership.

However, Mr Miller made it clear that consumer magazine publishing will remain the group's main focus. His comments came as Emap revealed group pre-tax profits for the half year ended 2 October up 12 per cent to pounds 16.6m on turnover up 16 per cent at pounds 169.9m.

The consumer division contributed pounds 11.1m to operating profits of pounds 16.2m. Business publishing contributed pounds 2.8m, local newspapers and printing pounds 4.6m and radio pounds 400,000, while exhibitions lost pounds 1.6m.

Mr Miller said Emap was now detecting signs of improved consumer and business confidence, and that advertising demand was rising as a result. There had been an increase of '25-30 per cent' compared with last year in the amount of job advertising carried by the group's local newspapers, he said.

Value-added tax at the full rate on newspapers and magazines, being considered by the Chancellor, would affect sales, he admitted. But the fact that Emap had managed to push sales up by 3 per cent despite increasing prices by 8 per cent over the last year demonstrated the loyalty of its readers, he said.

The shares rose 10p to 355p.

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