RTL Reaches for Red Ink; Quashes ITV Takeover Speculation

05 March 2002

Hit by the ad slump and charges of €2.56 billion related to goodwill impairment, Bertelsmann-controlled European broadcaster RTL Group posted a net loss of €2.5bn ($2.17bn; £1.53bn) for last year, down from a €67 million profit in 2000.

Adjusted EBITA (earnings before interest, tax and amortisation) fell 35% to €361m – though when restructuring costs, one-off items and start-up losses are factored in, the final EBITA was down 50.3% to €276m.

Revenues, meanwhile, edged up 0.2% to €4.05bn, though excluding acquisitions and divestments they fell 2.3%.

The group does not expect an imminent end to the ad downturn: "Based on our forward bookings to date, we are seeing continued weakness in advertising markets which we expect will continue for at least the first half of 2002," warned chief executive Didier Bellens.

At Channel 5, the British TV station 65%-owned by RTL, revenues tumbled from €234m in 2000 to €213m, with EBITA losses widening from €6m to €49m. It was, however, the only commercial television channel in RTL's portfolio to increase both market and audience share.

Insisting that Channel 5 remains its chief vehicle for growth in the UK market, RTL quashed rumours it might try to bid for a member of the ailing ITV network. Accordingly, more money is to be ploughed into C5’s programming in an attempt to raise its 6.7% audience share to nearer 10%.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff