UPDATE 2-ProSieben hit by TV advertising growth doubts

Thu Aug 4, 2011 8:22am EDT

* Q2 recurring core profit up 6.8 percent

* Q2 sales up 6.5 percent

* CEO sees moderate growth in core German TV ad market

* Shares reverse gains, down 9 percent

(Adds more CEO comment, updates shares)

By Nicola Leske

BONN, Germany, Aug 4 (Reuters) - German commercial broadcaster ProSieben PSMG_p.DE flagged moderate growth in its core TV advertising market this year, unsettling investors and overshadowing a 7 percent rise in quarterly profit.

Traders said Chief Executive Thomas Ebeling's comments on the outlook knocked ProSieben's shares, which were down 9.2 percent at 1203 GMT. The German mid-cap index was down 2.8 percent.

The broadcaster's shares had risen more than 4 percent earlier on Thursday after ProSieben said higher advertising sales lifted second-quarter by nearly 6.8 percent and it was on course for a record year.

Some analysts also expressed doubt about the company's strategy of diversifying to become less dependent on TV ad revenues.

"We stick to our opinion that ProSiebenSat1 has no good strategic position with respect to the diversification revenues," DZ Bank analyst Harald Heider adds, keeping the shares at "sell".

Like other broadcasters, ProSieben is keen to expand its offers amid fragmenting audiences and tap into the Internet TV market, betting that online advertising will compensate slumping ad revenues and fragmenting audiences.

For the time being, ad revenues are growing again after a double-digit decline in 2009.

The company said TV advertising revenues grew all across its Northern operations and were particularly strong in Norway and Denmark in the second quarter.

ProSieben, which bought European group SBS broadcasting in 2007, sold its Dutch and Belgian assets in April but decided to keep its SBS operations in Scandinavia, where it predicted continued growth.

The decision had disappointed some analysts at the time but the quarterly ad sales showed it was a clever move.

Ebeling said the company was planning to hold onto its Nordic assets for at least three to five years while it looked around for acquisitions.

Ad sales in Germany, Switzerland and Austria were higher than a year earlier.

A RECORD YEAR

Others analysts were more optimistic.

"The growth story still continues," Dirk Voigtlaender at Commerzbank said, adding that ProSieben had also managed to improve its TV ratings in Germany and that its Sixx channel aimed at a female audience had gained audience share.

ProSieben, which competes with Bertelsmann-owned RTL Group , said second-quarter recurring earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose to 238.7 million euros ($340.2 million) on sales growth of 6.5 percent to 692.2 million euros.

The figures are adjusted for the sale of ProSieben's Dutch and Belgian assets, which it sold for 1.23 billion euros to pay down debt, the company said.

Unadjusted core profit was 272 million euros and sales were 799.6 million euros, beating analysts average estimates of a flat recurring core profit of 264 million euros on sales of 788 million euros.

ProSieben reiterated it anticipates a medium single-digit percentage sales growth this year.

"We are on our way to another record year," Ebeling said in a statement.

ProSieben, whose shows include U.S. award winning comedy series The Big Bang Theory and comedy-drama Desperate Housewives, is controlled by private equity firms KKR and Permira .

(Additional reporting by Andreas Kroener in Frankfurt; Editing by Erica Billingham)

($1=.7017 Euro)

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