August 20, 2018 / 11:27 PM / 3 months ago

UPDATE 1-Australia's Seven West Media swings to annual profit

(Adds dividend details, background)

Aug 21 (Reuters) - Australian free-to-air television broadcaster Seven West Media Ltd on Tuesday said cost cuts helped it post an annual profit, turning around from a loss last year following hefty writedowns on the value of its television license.

The company a reported net profit of A$135.8 million ($99.4 million) for the year to June 30, compared with a net loss of A$744.3 million the previous year, when it wrote down the value of its broadcast license to reflect weak advertising sales.

On an underlying basis - which strips away one-time charges - net profit fell 14.6 percent to A$142.5 million.

Seven West said fiscal 2018 group operating costs, including depreciation and amortisation, fell 1.6 percent from a year ago to A$1.39 billion, while its cost reduction program was on track to deliver cost savings of A$10-A$20 million in fiscal 2019.

Like their peers around the world, Australia’s traditional media companies are scrambling to cut costs and find new revenue sources as advertisers redirect their spending to online giants like Alphabet Inc’s Google and Facebook.

The flight to online advertising has prompted the Australian government to remove restrictions on mergers and acquisitions between traditional media companies, once seen as a way to preserve diversity.

Last month, rival Nine Entertainment said it was buying the country’s biggest newspaper publisher Fairfax Media for $1.6 billion, creating the country’s biggest media firm.

Seven, which recently acquired the rights to air Cricket Australia matches, alongside its stable of regulars like “My Kitchen Rules”, said advertising revenue fell a little over 2 percent.

The company did not declare a final dividend, continuing a dividend payment freeze announced in February to strengthen its balance sheet and free up cash for acquisitions. ($1 = 1.3669 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Devika Syamnath and Susan Mathew in Bengaluru; editing by Byron Kaye and Richard Pullin)

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