TV box sales hit Sugar profits as he returns to screen

Amstrad blamed lower sales of its high value Sky Plus set-top boxes for the 12-per-cent fall in profits to £12.5 million for the six months to New Year's Eve.

It came on the day that Sir Alan - former chairman of Tottenham Hotspur - returned to the UK's TV screens with the BBC show in which he gets to fire business hopefuls competing to become his apprentice.

Amstrad sales fell from £63 million in the first half of the last financial year to £49.6 million this time.

Business in 2004 was boosted by a huge jump in sales as satellite TV subscribers rushed to upgrade their technology in the run-up to Christmas.

It followed the introduction of Sky Plus - digital TV which allows customers to pause live programmes and record one channel while watching another.

The subscription service offers an Amstrad-made personal video recorder (PVC) and was marketed with the slogan "create your own TV channel". Amstrad also supplies Sky with hardware for its standard satellite service.

But while overall sales volumes in the UK were similar to a year ago, a lower proportion of people bought the more advanced set-top boxes than the standard model. There was a similar pattern in shipments to Sky Italia.

Amstrad chairman Sir Alan said: "Satellite set-top box volumes to the UK and Italian markets were similar overall to a year ago.

"The reduction in sales value largely reflects the higher volume of standard set-top boxes compared to last year where the sales value was higher in the same period due to higher value PVC set-top boxes representing a larger proportion of the volume mix."

Sir Alan said revenues were also hit by the "inevitable downward pressure" on selling prices "which is an ongoing trend in the industry".

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