Profits down at Wireless Group ahead of News Corp takeover
PROFITS at Wireless Group have fallen ahead of its sale to Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.
The company - formerly known as UTV Media - reported operating profit of £4.7 million for the first six months of the year, compared to £6.1m for the same period in 2015.
The firm revealed slowing advertising revenues which it said impacted its radio stations across Britain and Ireland.
However, overall revenue was up slightly to £38.2m from £37m.
The company is set to be absorbed into News Corp which had a £220m takeover bid accepted.
The financial results also revealed the sale of UTV and UTV Ireland television businesses to ITV for £100m garnered profit on disposal of £79.2m while it confirmed £55m was returned to shareholders.
That pushed bottom line profits well into the black (£82.1m) against a half-a-million pound loss last year.
And net debt reduced to £1.6m from £46.9m.
The company hailed a strong performance by best known asset talkSport helped by the Euro 2016 championship.
The channel reaches 3.3m listeners weekly and was recently awarded three live UK audio packages for the Premier League for three seasons from 2016/17 to 2018/19.
Meanwhile, the station's international broadcasting business achieved double digit sales and profit growth in the first half of the year, the company said.
The period also saw Wireless launch three new digital radio services: Virgin Radio, talkRadio talkSport 2.
Wireless Group chairman Richard Huntingford said: "Wireless Group - and especially talkSport - has performed well in the first six months of the year.
"After a competitive bidding process, we were also delighted to be awarded three packages for Premier League live audio rights which will further underpin the outlook for talkSport going forward."
But he said the second quarter brought slower advertising at the firm's smaller stations.
"In our local stations and in Ireland, advertising trends were softer as we moved towards the referendum in Q2," said Mr Huntingford.
"Whilst it is still unclear what impact the uncertainty created by Brexit might have on advertising revenues in the all-important Q4, including in Ireland, the group currently anticipates a full year outturn broadly in line with expectations."
He added: "In the meantime, good progress is being made in respect of the regulatory clearances required in connection with the News Corp offer."
UTV Media was renamed after its television assets - and the UTV brand - was sold to ITV.
The Wireless Group is one of only three Northern Ireland firms to trade on the main London Stock Exchange. The others are First Derivatives and Kainos.
UTV's television stations on both sides of the Irish border were sold to ITV earlier this year for £100m.
That sale followed a year of haemorrhaging losses at the UTV Ireland television station.
Launched in a blaze of publicity at the start of 2015, the station failed to win over as many viewers as expected south of the border.