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Astral profits jump 74% with TV and billboard ads

Montreal, - Astral Media Inc. reported a 74 per cent jump in third-quarter profits Wednesday after strength in television and billboard advertisements offset a decline in radio profits.

Profits increased to $14.1 million, or 28 cents per share, compared with $8 million, or 17 cents per share in the year-earlier period.

The 74 per cent increase came on higher revenues of $104.5 million, compared with $87.7 million in the third quarter of 2001.

"This is a very strong quarter for Astral," said Ian Greenberg, president and chief executive. "Our television and outdoor advertising groups led the way with third quarter revenue increases of 22 per cent and 23 per cent respectively. Our radio group's performance is consistent with that of the Quebec radio market in the current year and its revenues increased by four per cent in the quarter."

Astral (TSX: ACM.A; ACM.B) owns and operates specialty, pay and pay-per-view television, radio and outdoor advertising, and also has Internet operations. Its proposed acquisition of 19 Telemedia radio stations still needs full regulatory approval.

In the radio group -- which includes 11 FM stations, three AM stations, and is a 50-per-cent stake in Quebec's Radiomedia -- profits for the quarter fell to $2.68 million from $3 million during last year's comparable quarter.

Television operating profits rose to $424.9 million, compared with $18.7 million, while outdoor advertising jumped to $2 million, from $1.6 million.

Meanwhile corporate costs increased to $3 million from $2.8 million a year ago.

"We are well in line with our financial targets for the year. Our strong results, even with the exclusion of non-recurring gains in both years are a clear indication of our ability to operate our businesses successfully and of our resolve to continue to grow this company in all sectors," said Greenberg.

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