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Strong first half pushes profits up 12% at United

LONDON – Pre-tax profits rose 12% at United Business Media, boosted by a strong performance at TV station five and signs of an improvement in some US markets.

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Profit before tax hit £45.5m, up from £40.7m last year, a rise of 12%, though underlying revenues are down 6% compared with the first half of 2002. Net loss for the period was £17.5m, compared with a loss a year earlier of £50.3m.

In the US, United's technology magazine and healthcare business, CMP Media, saw titles increase their market share of advertising page volumes, up to 29.4% from 27.5% last year.

In the UK, United reported a much-improved performance at its business magazine division, which last week paid £79m for business publishing group Aprovia UK in a deal that gives it control of the award-winning magazine Building.

In the first half of the year, United also acquired the remaining 50% of Property Media and the Interior Design Handbook. The integration of both has since been completed according to plan.

These, along with the Builder Group, will be integrated into CMPi and, together with Property Media and the Interior Design Handbook, have significantly strengthened CMPi's position in the UK construction and design market.

Clive Hollick, chief executive of United Business Media, said: "There has been a welcome stabilisation in revenue trends over the past six months and early signs of an improvement in certain markets in the US."

He added: "Five continues to make excellent progress, with strong gains in advertising share. After six years of investment, five delivered an operating profit in the first half of 2003."

Looking towards the rest of the year, Lord Hollick said forward revenue visibility remains limited, but there were positive signs.

"The recent stabilisation in revenue, improvements in certain US markets, a gradual return to normal trading conditions in Asia and the boost to margins from improved operating efficiencies throughout the group should deliver an improvement in United's year-on-year performance in the second half of 2003," he said. "We plan to increase the level of investment in new products and make acquisitions that strengthen our core business and meet our demanding financial criteria."

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