`Internet on TV' agreement helps Maid turn the corner

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A bullish prediction by Dan Wagner, chief executive of Maid, that the on-line business information provider would make "considerable profits" this year put some pep into the company's share price, which has been in free fall since Christmas.

Mr Wagner, who yesterday announced that Maid's losses deepened from pounds 4m to pounds 7m in 1996, claimed the final three months of 1996 marked a "turning point" for the company.

"Costs will remain roughly static in 1997 following the trend seen in the fourth quarter, while sales growth will remain strong," he said. "The trends are clear, they will continue, and we are set for considerable profits in 1997."

The share price, which started the new year north of 300p, rapidly gained 15p to 187.5p after the company's results and accompanying trading statement were released.

Michael Mander, chairman, said: "The first two months of 1997 have started off with record usage levels and buoyant subscriber revenues, together with the conclusion of new alliances."

This year's results will benefit from last month's agreement with 4th Network of the US that guarantees Maid $5m (pounds 3m) in 1997.

The company will transfer its "Internet on TV'' technology to 4th Network, and become its agent in Europe. Maid received $7.5m worth of shares in 4th Network, a provider of Internet access to hotels.

It will also receive 10 per cent of 4th Network's Internet access revenue for 30 years, and in 1998 and 1999, Maid will bank guaranteed royalties of $6m and $7m respectively, subject to performance criteria which have yet to be specified.