Britain's outdoor advertising industry, until now apparently outpacing the general advertising slowdown, on Thursday admitted to the first signs of malaise.

Maiden Group, the UK’ second largest outdoor specialist [after Clear Channel of the US], gave notice to investors and London’s financial markets that profits in the current fiscal would fall short of their expectations.

Despite unveiling H1 pre-tax profits up 2% to £5.3 million, chief executive Ron Zeghibe warned that underlying performance would fail to match the £19.7m recorded in 2000. “October and November are the biggest selling months of the year normally,” he said. “If you lose it there, you really lose a chance to make a lot of money.”

The market reacted by marking down Maiden shares by 45p to £2.325 – less than half their twelve month high of £5.815.

Zeghibe also broke ranks with his ad industry peers, displaying unusual candour about the current situation. The impact on world markets of this month’s terrorist attacks, he opined, disguised the fact that many media companies were due for a prolonged downturn anyway.

Said Zeghibe: “[The attacks have] provided the cover for companies to release the information that they had wanted to get out all along. A lot of people had visibility on advertising, but what they saw was so ugly they did not want to talk about it," he said.

Maiden, however, would surpass its rivals, chutzpahed Zeghibe: “We will outperform the cycle, even though we cannot say what the cycle will be like.”

News sources: The Times (London); MediaGuardian