India drives Star operating profits to $ 128 million for FY05: MPA

MUMBAI: India continues to be the engine that drives the Rupert Murdoch-controlled Star Group, News Corp's pan-Asian venture. Star raked in operating profits (EBIDTA) of $ 128 million for FY 2005 (ended 30 June 2005), a surge of 113 per cent year on year, research and publishing firm Media Partners Asia (MPA) has reported.



According to MPA, operating income stood at $109 million on consolidated turnover of $444 million Profit margins grew to 29 per cent (EBITDA level) and 24 per cent (EBIT) during FY 2005. MPA estimates indicate that Star's FYE June 2006 EBITDA could reach $205 million (40 per cent margin) while EBIT could grow to up to $190 million Depreciation and capEx costs continue to average at about $15-20 million per annum.



Turnover grew 24 per cent year-on-year during Q4 FY 2005 and 14 per cent for FY 2005, reaching $444 million, boosted by advertising growth of Star Plus and Star Gold channels along with contributions from new channels in India, which now contributes about 67 per cent to group turnover. During FY 2005, advertising contributed 57 per cent to group turnover with subscription at 35 per cent and other business at 8 per cent.

Star is edging close to breakeven in China, though on a relatively low revenue base. The company continues to face regulatory barriers on the Mainland with government authorities closely monitoring its activities. News Corp chairman and CEO Rupert Murdoch recently expressed his frustration on the issue complaining that his company had hit a "brick wall in China". Murdoch was speaking at a panel on global media at the Clinton Global Initiative.

Meanwhile as far as the trajectory of Murdoch's jewel in his Asian crown is concerned, it remains up, up and away. Going forward, the company plans to maintain and extend its leadership in India with Star Plus as well as increasing Star One's audience share; strengthening Star Gold; and launching international feeds. T Sky, Star's 20 per cent owned $350 million DTH satellite JV with the Tatas, is expected to launch in March 2006.

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