Radio/TV boost Astral's revenues


Montreal, - Astral Media Inc. has reported strong year-over-year growth in revenues, EBITDA, earnings and cash flow from operations for the second quarter, ended February 28, 2003.

Revenues totaled $227.3 million for the first six months of the 2003 fiscal year compared to $193.6 million last year - and $113.1 million for the second quarter, up 21% from the same quarter last year. EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) increased 42% to $55.7 million for the first six months and was up 39% to $26.7 million in the second quarter compared to the same period of fiscal '02.

"This increase reflects the particularly solid performance of Astral's Television and Radio groups over the course of the first half of fiscal 2003," said the company's press release.

Astral owns numerous radio stations as well as television properties such as The Movie Network, Super Écran, Family Channel, Viewer's Choice (eastern), and Canal Vie.

Cash flow from operations also rose 34% for the first half of the year totaling $38.6 million compared to $28.7 million for the same period last year. For the second quarter, cash flow from operations was up 23% to $18.2 million.

For the first six months of fiscal 2003, net earnings increased 53% over last year, rising to $30 million, excluding a non-recurring after-tax gain of $13 million recorded last fiscal year on the sale of the company's minority holding in The Comedy Network.

Net earnings in the second quarter of fiscal 2003 increased by 42% to $13.8 million over the second quarter of fiscal 2002.

"We are very pleased with our solid results this quarter, particularly with the strong contribution of the radio stations acquired from Telemedia over the full three-month period," said Ian Greenberg, president and CEO and co-founder of Astral Media. "As a result of this first half's performance, we are very well positioned to reach our overall financial targets for Fiscal 2003."

During a conference call with financial analysts and media today, company executives talked about some of what's coming for the company this year, including subscription video on demand.

"Our conversations with our affiliates and suppliers have moved along," Astral television president John Riley said. Astral has moved to negotiate for the SVOD rights to programs like The Sopranos, for example, so that it would be able to offer that popular program in SVOD as soon as it can, since it has proven rather popular Stateside. The target is still to launch SVOD with distributors in this calendar year, Riley added.

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