NDTV forecasts faster growth from Q3

MUMBAI: NDTV?s first-quarter net loss from news business has widened over the year-ago period as it increased its employee expenses while revenue dipped on absence of political advertising.

The company, which operates English news channel NDTV 24X7, Hindi news channel NDTV India and business news channel NDTV Profit, suffered a net loss of Rs 241.2 million for the three-month period ended June compared to a loss of Rs 23.9 million a year ago.

Income from operations at Rs 670.8 million fell 12.11 per cent, as against Rs 763.2 million in the year-ago period. In the previous fiscal, revenue had jumped on the back of political advertising due to general elections.

"The first quarter has generally not been good for anybody so far as ad revenue goes. Companies are just walking out of recession and there is an air of caution. We expect a slight improvement in the second quarter and better growth over the subsequent quarters. Our subscription revenue for the first quarter has seen good growth," says NDTV Group CEO Narayan Rao.

On consolidated basis, the subscription income has gone up 22 per cent to Rs 116 million, as against Rs 95 million in Q1 FY 10 on the back of increased DTH penetration.

NDTV's expenses jumped 20 per cent to Rs 889.1 million, from Rs 741 million a year ago. This was mainly because of personnel cost, increase in marketing expenses and special bonuses the company awarded to its employees.

The rise in personnel cost even without the one-time expense of bonus and gratuity has been sharp over the trailing quarter.

Explains Rao, "We have got to a headcount that is similar to 2007 - prior to our expansion. That is a good development. Besides, salaries had to be corrected after the recession."

On a consolidated basis, NDTV has narrowed its net loss to Rs 311.1 million, as against Rs 834.1 million a year earlier. However, the previous fiscal included NDTV Imagine financials, which NDTV sold to Turner International, and is thus not strictly comparable.

Income from operations stood at Rs 835.6 million compared to Rs 1.31 billion a year ago, while expenses were at Rs 269.7 million (from Rs 667.7 million).

The company's lifestyle channel, Good Times, is performing well. "Good Times should be able to do a revenue of over Rs 650 million this fiscal and is profitably poised. The core news business could remain under a bit of a strain unless ratings improve," says a media analyst who tracks the company.

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