ITV buoyed by predicted rise in ad revenue

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The Independent Online

ITV expects advertising revenues to grow in December for the first time in almost 18 months, but there was no word on its search for a new chairman.

The beleaguered broadcaster surprised the market as it predicted a significant improvement in advertising during the fourth quarter, sending the shares soaring nearly 10 per cent.

Ad revenue is expected to decline 1 per cent in November, before growing 4 per cent the following month, the group said, providing some respite from the worst advertising recession on record.

The chief operating officer, John Cresswell, said the outlook "has continued to improve and ITV is continuing to outperform the market". He said the forecast rise in revenues would be the first increase "since the first half of 2008, and the strongest monthly year-on-year performance since the back end of 2007". The rise came on spending from food retailers and telecoms companies; even financial services firms had returned. Mr Cresswell conceded the comparisons with the previous year were getting easier, adding: "We are not calling the bottom. Visibility is short."

Mr Cresswell admitted the group had cut spending on drama as " we need to balance the budget".

ITV is still searching for a chairman, who will in turn restart the search for a new chief executive. The process was thrown into turmoil in September when talks collapsed with the favoured candidate, Tony Ball. Subsequently, the board's preference for chairman, Sir Crispin Davies, a former chief executive of Reed Elsevier, ruled himself out of the job, as did BMI's founder, Sir Michael Bishop. Mr Cresswell said the management team had not been distracted by the executive search.

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IPC Media managed to shrug off the advertising slump as it posted a rise in pre-tax profits in the year to the end of December.

The group, which publishes lads' mag Nuts and NME, said profits rose £1.9m to £78.6m as it slashed adminstration and sales costs.

Revenues fell less than 3 per cent to £393.5m "due to the adverse economic conditions, which have reduced demand for advertising space," according to accounts filed at Companies House.

This comes as rival NatMags, publisher of Esquire, swung from a £15.9m profit to a pre-tax loss of £42.8m in 2008. Profits at Haymarket, 4-4-2 publisher, dropped 43 per cent to £4.5m after a business reorganisation.