ITV to pay special dividend as profits jump

ITV shares have almost doubled since the start of 2013

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier was in bullish mood today as he unveiled a fourth year of rising profits and gave a confident outlook as advertising and programme sales keep increasing.

Annual pre-tax profit leapt 30 per cent to £435 million, allowing Crozier to hike the dividend 35 per cent to 3.5p and, for the second year in a row, there was also an extra special payout of 4p.

Every part of the business grew — in free-to-air advertising, online and pay channels, and the programme-making arm ITV Studios — with group revenues up 9 per cent to £2.39 billion.

The on-screen performance of the broadcaster behind Downton Abbey, X Factor and Saturday Night Takeaway, pictured, was also ITV’s best in 10 years, with its total share of viewing up 4 per cent.

“There is an improving economy. Advertising is returning,” said Crozier, who expects ad revenues to be up as much as 6 per cent in the first four months of this year.

“I don’t think it would be an exaggeration to say our financial position has been transformed,” added Crozier, looking back to 2010 when he joined and ITV was in poor health.

Crozier, who is likely to get a big bonus after the strong performance, is already set to collect shares worth as much as £9 million by this spring as long-term awards pay out.

ITV shares, which have nearly quadrupled on his watch, tumbled nearly 5 per cent today amid profit-taking.