First half operating profits rose by 24% to £20.4 million at Ulster Television, while the pre-tax figure of £20.4m was bolstered by the £13.4m sale of the group’s stake in Société Européene des Satellites.

However, the euphoria of Ulster’s chairman John McCann was dampened by downbeat third quarter forecasts: "ITV may be down by about 3% in the third quarter," he said, blaming this on the loss of advertiser confidence in ITV due to poor network ratings and lack of a chief executive. The end of rambunctious dotcom ad spending was another factor.

However, Ulster plans to invest £1.2 million in its loss-making internet division in the current year, while seeking expansion opportunities "in the broad media".

McCann also conceded that UTV is a prime candidate for takeover next year when media ownership restrictions are relaxed. Analysts tip the voracious Granada Media Group as the most likely predator.

News source: The Times (London)