Big day at CanWest includes big profits

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Related story: CanWest, Goldman to buy Alliance Atlantis

TORONTO -- As it announced a planned takeover of Alliance Atlantis Communications with partner Goldman Sachs Capital Partners, CanWest Global Communications Corp. on Wednesday unveiled first-quarter profits that were more than doubled on the strength of U.S. primetime hits.

Winnipeg, Manitoba-based CanWest Global posted CAN$63.3 million ($56.6 million) in earnings for the three months ending Nov. 30, compared with a CAN$30 million profit in 2006.

First-quarter revenue rose slightly to CAN$860.4 million ($735 million) from $847.8 million.

CanWest Global cited improved Canadian ratings, especially from the latest installment of CBS' "Survivor" and Fox's "House" and "Prison Break" dramas.

"We are satisfied with our first-quarter results, particularly with the significant improvement in Canadian television," CEO Leonard Asper said in a statement.

Canwest Global in recent years has lagged behind rival CTV, the current primetime king here. The broadcaster now claims it is gaining on CTV, pointing to the Toronto market, where it posted three shows in the top 10 for the key 18-49 demo and nine in the top 20 during the latest fall campaign.

In addition to its Canadian TV assets, CanWest Global also is the country's largest newspaper publisher and operates radio, TV, new media and out-of-home advertising businesses in New Zealand, Australia, Turkey, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, the U.K. and the U.S.

"We also see the beginning of a positive turnaround at (Australia's) Network TEN and a strong market in New Zealand," Asper said of his company's performance Down Under.

Separately, CanWest Global in October retained Citigroup Global Markets to "review strategic options" for its 56% stake in Australia's Network TEN, including a possible sale of the holding this year after the Australian government relaxes media ownership restrictions.
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