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Chime sees full-year results back in black with £7m pre-tax profit

LONDON - Lord Bell's Chime Communications has seen its pre-tax profit level shoot back into the black for 2004, jumping to £7m compared with a loss of £11.2m in 2003.

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Profits were driven by a strong performance by Chime's PR business, with a very strong final quarter, as turnover rose from £93.8m to £95.7m and net debt at the company was slashed from £29.3m to £6.3m.

Shares in the company were up after the full-year results were published this morning, rising by 2.25p to 32p, a rise of 7.6%.

Chime's public relations operations, which includes agencies such as Bell Pottinger, Good Relations and Resonate, performed strongly in an improving marketing place, with operating profit up 6% to £5.3m.

Chime's agencies have handled some of the most high-profile media cases throughout the year, including an international media campaign for Ukrainian presidential candidate Viktor Yushchenko, who later won the election, and tennis player Greg Rusedski's successful defence against taking a banned substance.

While its PR business performed well, the news was not as positive in the integrated marketing division. Operating profit declined by 13% to £1.3m despite an improved performance from advertising and direct marketing agency Heresy and the sales promotion shop Gasoline.

The decline was blamed on the restructure undertaken in 2003, with Chime saying the benefits had not come through as quickly as hoped.

In Chime's research division, operating profit was up by 23% to £600,000, on the back of a 27% rise in income to £3.3m. The company said it had invested in the division over 2004, and the division is expected to grow strongly.

Lord Bell, chairman of Chime, said: "There has been an increase in new business opportunities in 2005, and while clients continue to be very demanding on both price and levels of service, there are some signs that client budgets are increasing. It does, however, remain a competitive market."

Chime said it was planning to take a cautious approach to acquisitions this year, although it was likely there would be "some activity". The company had been holding merger talks with rival PR group Incepta last year, but these fell through. Incepta has since embarked on a merger with Huntsworth.

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