Zee Telefilms net down 8 % in Q2

Zee Telefilms Ltd today announced its second quarter results (ended September 30, 2001). It comes as no great surprise that even though the income from sales and services has gone up by 15 per cent from Rs 910 million in Q2 FY2000 to Rs 1046 million and other income has gone up from Rs 139 million to Rs 185 million, net profit has taken a hit.

The reason attributed to the downturn is the increase in the cost of programming from Rs 396 million to Rs 502 million (up 27 per cent) in the same period. When contacted Rajesh Jain, president, corporate finance & strategy, Zee Telefilms, had this to say: "The cost of programming includes the production cost of (Zee's superhit blockbuster movie) Gadar as well as new programming that went into the relaunch of Zee TV. So the cumulative cost was higher."

Staff costs also went up from Rs 50 million to Rs 93 million and interest costs from Rs 57 million in Q1 FY 2000 to Rs 144 million. When asked how far the Ketan Parekh factor worked towards increasing the interest burden, Jain admitted it was a factor but added that the major cost increase was because of capital costs incurred for purchasing set top boxes and other equipment for the company's DTO project. The amount was between Rs 700 to Rs 800 million, Jain said.

The Zee Network's consolidated results also are not too attractive. Even though the total income has gone up by 17 per cent to Rs 2667 million from Rs 2274 million in the last corresponding quarter, it is largely because of the healthy growth in subscription revenues (Zee TV went pay in June). Revenues went up 52 per cent from Rs 536 million to Rs 814 million along with an increase in sales and services (up by 46 per cent from Rs 200 million to Rs 292 million). "There has been close to an 180 per cent increase in domestic subscription revenues which form the major chunk of the total subscriptions," says Jain.

Ad revenues are the most worrisome part of the results though. There has been virtually no increase over last year which as far as market sentiment went was thought to be Zee's "Annus Horribilis". "Considering the shape the market is in post 11 September, that we could manage to maintain the same level is not so bad," Jain counters. "We are cautiously optimistic about the future," Jain said when queried as to what were the forecasts for the next quarter.

On the expenses front the increases are at a rather disproportionate 21 per cent (considering that total revenue increases stood at 17 per cent). Add to this the increased interest burden of 52 per cent from Rs 134 million to Rs 208 million worked to further erode profits. The end result was that profit after tax went down by 2 per cent from Rs 543 million to Rs 532 million.

For the cumulative period of six months, Zee Network has registered a revenue growth of 15 per cent from Rs 4,512 million to Rs 5,208 million.

In today's trading on the Bombay Stock Exchange, the Zee Telefilms scrip was steady with lower volumes of 200,000 shares against the huge trading usually witnessed on the eve of any Zee results announcement. Whether this indicates the lack of attractiveness in the stock is the question. The share opened at Rs 86 and moved between a narrow band of Rs 84 and Rs 88.45 and closed at Rs 85. It should be noted that the market was also dull today. The BSE's Sensitive index was down by 14 points at the end of the day's trading.

The rather unspectacular revamping campaign which blew up a declared Rs 150 million, the hold on a search for a strategic partner, as well as the monies still to be received from other group companies have really taken a toll on the Zee price. It remains to be seen when the long awaited upswing in the company's fortunes takes place

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