Media moves improve Carlton's future view

Michael Green, the chairman of Carlton Communications, yesterday said proposed changes to cross-media ownership restrictions were "good news for Carlton," and that he would "get more involved in cable and satellite, which can only be beneficial to our programming capabilities".

Mr Green made his comments following the release of the company's half- year pre-tax profits, which came in at pounds 120.1m, up 64 per cent from the same period a year earlier, on turnover up 22 per cent to pounds 800.6m.

The results were at the top end of analysts' estimates, and most raised their full-year forecasts to about pounds 250m, and to as high as pounds 288m in 1996.

The shares dropped 13p to 946p, despite the better-than-expected performance. Analysts said there had been profit-taking following the rise in media stocks in recent weeks, before the unveiling of the Government's Green Paper on media.

Mr Green told an analysts briefing that speculation he had been negotiating with Lord Stevens, chairman of United Newspapers, to buy the Express national newspaper titles was "absolute nonsense". But according to analysts at the briefing, Mr Green confirmed he was interested in taking Carlton into other media businesses.

Despite the strong growth in the first half, some analysts were concerned about lower margins in Carlton's video distribution operations, where higher raw material costs and demands from Hollywood studios for more elaborate packaging had squeezed profit. The company's low-cost UK video distribution arm, Pickwick, continued to underperform.

According to analysts, Mr Green disputed forecasts that video on demand and other delivery systems for entertainment would replace video cassettes. He underlined that the video distribution business remained healthy and would perform well into the foreseeable future.

Margins on the broadcasting side were far healthier, reflecting stronger advertising revenues and the inclusion of results from Central Television for the full six months of the period.

In the future, Mr Green said the company would concentrate on developing its film and TV programme libraries, and on selling more product overseas. The company's interest in cable and satellite television was linked to securing larger markets for its own production, he said. Investment Column, page 41

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