Westcountry exceeds Daily Mail expectations

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WESTCOUNTRY Television, the new regional broadcaster, got off to a good start in its first three months, producing smaller than expected losses, according to its 20 per cent shareholder, Daily Mail and General Trust.

DMGT said Westcountry had exceeded expectations. So, too, had its 40 per cent stake in Teletext, which took over from Oracle. Together they were mainly responsible for a pounds 1.2m loss recorded for associates in DMGT's interim results yesterday.

Westcountry, which also counts South West Water among its shareholders, took over the Devon and Cornwall franchise from 1 January with a bid of pounds 7.8m, ousting the incumbent Television South West, which bid pounds 16.2m.

DMGT's pre-tax profits grew 11 per cent to pounds 21.2m in the half-year to 4 April after restating the prior year figure to meet new accounting rules. Without the restatement, profits would have shown a small fall from pounds 22.8m. It lifted the dividend from 32p to 36p.

The ordinary shares put on pounds 3.25 to pounds 94.75, despite a cautious outlook statement. Although jobs advertising was improving, the trend remained 'erratic' and DMGT, which publishes the Daily Mail, Evening Standard and a string of provincial newspapers, said it expected only a slow improvement in advertising volumes.

It also warned that the full-year results could be hit by exchange rate effects on dollar-denominated debt and the year-end revaluation of investment properties. Last year it wrote these down by pounds 26.5m.

The national titles increased display and classified advertising revenues. But classifed advertising volumes at the Evening Standard fell again.

Northcliffe, the regional newspapers division, maintained profitability on shrinking revenues while Euromoney lifted profits before tax by 29 per cent.