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Maiden profits fall 17% but 2004 to show improvement

LONDON - Outdoor company Maiden Group has seen pre-tax profits fall 17% from £6.4m last year to £5.3m this year on the back of turnover of £88.1m, after what it described as a challenging year for the ad industry.

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Maiden had warned earlier this year that it would not meet profit levels forecast by analysts.

In its preliminary results announcement today, the company said that its performance was in line with the larger outdoor companies and that margins remained under pressure throughout 2003. It blamed economic uncertainty because of international conflict for slow sales in the middle of 2003.

However it was more upbeat about 2004, saying that the year had started strongly. Maiden said it would focus on rebuilding margins and securing its rail advertising business, with the Major Stations & Roadside contract renewal due to be decided in the summer.

Ron Zeghibe, chief executive of Maiden, said: "These results are in line with our pre-close statement and reflect how 2003 continued to be a challenging year for the advertising industry, particularly in the first half. Despite this, outdoor advertising continued to outperform most other display media."

He said that prospects for the second and third quarters are encouraging, and that revenues and margins should improve this year. Shares in the company were trading at 275p this morning, up by 5p or 1.6%.

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