* Interim dividend raised 7 percent
* H1 results ahead of forecasts
* Happy with market expectations for full year
* Shares up over 9 percent at 0831 GMT
(Adds details on results, outlook, background)
By Georgina Prodhan
LONDON, July 31 (Reuters) - British media group United Business Media UBM.L said it was on track to meet 2009 market expectations and raised its dividend after cutting costs to combat weakness in print and trade fairs, lifting its shares.
The company, which owns trade magazines, news distribution wires and fairs including the Hong Kong Jewellery and Gem fair, reported lower first-half profits and revenues on Friday that analysts said were slightly ahead of their forecasts.
UBM lost advertising revenue for its print magazines amid a general pronounced downturn in advertising spending, and suffered from fewer attendees at its trade fairs as business travel budgets were cut. Events bring in about half of UBM’s profits.
“UBM’s performance in the first half of 2009 was satisfactory in the context of a tough worldwide economic environment and extremely challenging conditions in a number of our markets,” Chief Executive David Levin said in a statement.
Shares in UBM were up 9.36 percent by 0831 GMT to 406 pence, one of the top gainers in the European media index .SXMP, which was up 1.36 percent.
“The highlight of today’s results is that the group has raised its interim dividend by 7 percent to 6.0 pence, compared with our forecast for a flat dividend,” analysts at brokerage Numis wrote in a note.
UBM said forward bookings for its major second-half events were up 5.9 percent and said it would not suffer to the same extent from lower attendance in the second half, which contains more exhibitor-only events.
“We’re not quite at the point of saying there are great green shoots but... we’re less down than we anticipated and less down than our shows early in the year,” Levin told Reuters.
British peer Informa INF.L, which talked to UBM about a merger last year, reported higher first-half profit and revenue this week and said registrations for the conferences and courses it runs had begun to stabilise.
UBM’s first-half adjusted operating profit fell 13 percent to 78.3 million pounds ($129.5 million) and revenue fell 2 percent to 435 million pounds. Headline results benefited from exchange-rate movements of the dollar and euro against sterling.
Numis said it would likely maintain its forecasts for UBS to make pretax profit of 145 million pounds ($240 million) for the full year and earnings of 47 pence per share.
RATIONAL SELLERS EMERGE
UBM also said it planned to become more acquisitive again as seller’s price expectations grew more realistic, and announced a $2.5 million acquisition of specialist website module builder The Fuel Team to enhance its PR Newswire news distribution wire.
The acquisition was the third so far this month for UBM, which in normal times continually makes small acquisitions but which waited out the first half of this year for prices to come down without buying any companies.
“We’re seeing rational sellers beginning to emerge,” Levin told Reuters.
He said UBM was interested in China, India and Brazil and was focused on businesses with strong data and subscriptions, companies that would support its move online, and live events.
UBM generated 89 million pounds of cash in the first half, or 114 percent of operating profit. It had cash of 188.6 million pounds, undrawn facilities of 79 million and net debt of 228.8 million as of June 30.
Levin said UBM was not interested in buying the U.S. ad-funded magazines that publisher Reed Elsevier REL.LELSN.AS wants to sell, as he said they were not connected with particular events, as UBM's magazines are.
“Just a block of controlled-circulation titles has no interest for us,” he said.
UBM cut a further 350 jobs, or about 5 percent of its staff, in the first half, and closed 15 print titles of a total of about 150.
Levin said it was inevitable that more job cuts would follow as UBM rationalised its magazine portfolio. He said the company had no target for headcount reduction but would consider each magazine on its merits. ($1=.6045 pounds) (Editing by John Stonestreet and Mike Nesbit)