Theme parks aid Anglia: Australian Leisure Holding helps TV contractor to healthy recovery

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The Independent Online
A MINORITY investment in an Australian cinema and theme-park business has tripled in value to pounds 30m for Anglia Television, which yesterday reported a healthy recovery in profits.

The 17.5 per cent stake in Village Roadshow, a quoted company 10 per cent owned by Kerry Packer's Channel Nine, now accounts for more than a quarter of Anglia's total stock market value.

Anglia, which has spent pounds 10m on the investment, hinted that it might take a profit on it. David McCall, chief executive, said: 'It's a problem in the sense that it's now a hell of a lot of money in one basket.' However, one difficulty in selling is that Anglia has no capital losses to shelter the profit against tax.

Village Roadshow has a theme park venture with Time Warner, the American media group that earlier this week signed three joint ventures with Anglia. It is expanding with multiplex cinemas in Taiwan and Thailand after a successful start in Singapore.

Anglia reported pre-tax profits of pounds 14.5m for the year to 31 December, compared with a restated pounds 8.4m for the previous 14 months. A cut in the Exchequer levy from pounds 8.3m to pounds 2.4m produced most of the improvement.

Operating profit before the levy and associated businesses increased from pounds 11.9m to pounds 13m. On a like-for- like basis, advertising revenue increased by 4.9 per cent to pounds 112.8m and Anglia increased its share of total ITV advertising.

Its NAR share, the industry- recognised measure, rose from 6.7 per cent to 6.86 per cent.

Sales of programmes rose from pounds 22.4m to pounds 23.3m. This year new Anglia productions include its raunchy drama Riders, described by the author Jilly Cooper as 'a sort of Lady Chatterley on horseback', another series of The Chief and more Survival Special nature programmes.

Sir Peter Gibbings, chairman, warned that profits would inevitably fall this year because of the difficult trading environment and the pounds 17.8m payment for the East of England franchise. A final dividend of 6.4p makes an unchanged total of 9.26p.

He said the group was highly geared to prosper from any upturn: every pounds 1 of extra revenue contributed 93p to the bottom line. In the current year, there were signs of advertising demand picking up.

(Photograph omitted)

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