Pearson hits at YTT record

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Yorkshire & Tyne Tees, makers of the popular television programme Heartbeat and holder of ITV licences in the north of England returned to the black in 1994, after a dismal performance in 1993. It announced a final dividend of 4.8p a share. Investors were relieved, sending the share price up 27p to 393p in trading yesterday.

ut the chief executive of one shareholder, Pearson, was less enthusiastic. "It reminds me of the headmaster's report - tremendous progress; poor," Frank arlow said yesterday.

Pearson owns 13.95 per cent of YTT, the maximum it can hold under government rules and still maintain the independent status of its subsidiary Thames Television. Newspaper publishers are also limited to a 20 per cent stake in ITV companies, although the the ceiling may be raised. Ward Thomas, YTT Chairman, said Pearson would be welcome to raise its stake, perhaps to 29.9 per cent, but anything higher might pose "public policy problems".

Announcing the YTT results, Mr Thomas conceded that profits had only just returned to their level of 1982. Pre-tax profits were £10.5m in the 15 months to 31 December, compared with a loss of £7.9m in the 12 months to 30 September 1993.

He also called on the Government to accept a lower licence fee during the renewal hearings in 1998. YTT set the fee, £54m per year, to win the licence in 1991, but Mr Thomas now argues that the process was "flawed". The results in 1993 were dramatically affected by an over-sale of advertising time, which obliged the company to repay advertisers .YTT has since cut 1,700 jobs to create a "core" team to lower costs.