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UPDATE 2-ITV to pay special dividend as earnings rise
February 27, 2013 / 7:31 AM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 2-ITV to pay special dividend as earnings rise

* To pay 156 mln pounds special dividend worth 4 pence/share

* 2012 adjusted earnings 520 mln pounds, up 13 pct

* Q1 advertising revenue seen up 5 pct

* CEO says firm has not received takeover approaches

* Shares down 2 percent

By James Davey

LONDON, Feb 27 (Reuters) - ITV, Britain’s largest free-to-air broadcaster, said a push to grow non-advertising revenue meant it was able to pay a 156 million pound ($236 million) special dividend after full-year earnings rose 13 percent.

“We want to reward all our shareholders equally and to reward shareholders who are staying with us as we grow,” chief executive Adam Crozier told reporters on Wednesday.

ITV, home to soap opera “Coronation Street”, period drama “Downton Abbey” and variety show “Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway”, said having ended 2012 with 206 million pounds net cash it would pay a special dividend of 4 pence per share as well as a 2.6 pence full-year dividend.

Crozier, CEO since 2010, has been weaning ITV off its dependence on revenue from a weak advertising market, seeking greater revenue streams from television production, online, pay and interactive businesses. “ITV is transforming into a more robust, efficient and balanced company,” he said.

ITV said adjusted 2012 earnings rose 13 percent to 520 million pounds on revenue up 3 percent to 2.20 billion. Adjusted earnings per share rose 16 percent to 9.2 pence, compared with a forecast for 8.7 pence, according to Reuters data.

Shares in ITV hit a 12-month high at 125.4 pence last week, partly because of speculation the recently agreed takeover of Virgin Media by Liberty Global might trigger an approach for ITV from a private equity firm.

Crozier said ITV had not received any approaches.

The stock was down 2 percent at 117.6 pence at 1113 GMT, valuing the business at 4.6 billion pounds.

“There should be scope for minor EPS upgrades post the investor meeting. Some of this is possibly already baked in, with the shares up 50 percent in the last few months,” Panmure Gordon analyst Alex DeGroote said.

ITV’s non-advertising revenue rose 12 percent to 1.04 billion pounds, helped by its production division, ITV Studios, increasing revenue 16 percent and online, pay and interactive revenue rising 26 percent.

Crozier said growth at ITV Studios growth was driven by investment in programmes such as its award winning exposure of the Jimmy Savile sex scandal and a period drama charting the life and times of U.S. tycoon Harry Gordon Selfridge - “Mr Selfridge” has been sold to 35 countries and recommissioned.

Though ITV’s net advertising revenue (NAR) in 2012 was flat, the company said it outperformed the wider television market.

It reported a positive start to 2013 with first-quarter advertising expected to be up 5 percent, driven by demand from retail as well as telecoms and broadband providers.

Crozier said that although ITV’s share of viewing fell 3 percent in 2012 because of major one-off events - the London Olympics and Paralympics, and Queen Elizabeth’s Jubilee, he did not expect it to hit the firm’s advertising performance in 2013.

“The advertising deals we have secured for 2013 and beyond support that view,” he said.

Crozier said ITV will follow up December’s purchase of a majority stake in U.S. reality programme maker Gurney Productions with further acquisitions “if the right opportunities come along”.

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