Strong first half for Sweden's Modern Times

Media conglom's net income up 41% to $111 million

COLOGNE, Germany -- Swedish media conglom Modern Times Group had a strong first half, with sales ticking up 8% to 7.4 billion Swedish Crowns ($1 billion) and net income jumping 41% to 822 million Swedish Crowns ($111 million) through June 30, the company announced Tuesday.

MTG's core broadcasting operations in Scandinavia showed double digit profit growth and Scandi free-TV operations matched that mark, with first half revenue increasing 12% to 2.1 billion Swedish Crowns ($284 million). MTG has already announced plans to expand in the Swedish free-TV market and will launch TV 10 -- its fifth free-to-air channel in Sweden -- in September.

MTG's Nordic pay TV business was also strongly profitable, with an EBIT of 413 million Swedish Crowns ($56 million) in the first six months, 17% up on the same period last year. Revenue for pay was flat, however, with sales increasing just 3% to 2.2 billion Swedish Crowns ($298 million).

To keep pay TV customers happy, MTG recently acquired the exclusive Swedish broadcasting rights for English Premier League soccer for the next three seasons. Pay TV division Viasat will broadcast the matches on a new, dedicated Premier League HD channel as well as on its sports-themed pay channels.

MTG is continuing its expansion East with a deal earlier this month to increase its stake in Viastrong Holding, which controls Ukrainian pay TV platform Viasat Ukraine. In February, MTG also bought up 50% of Raduga Holdings, the Russia group that owns Russian pay TV operation Raduga TV.

MTG already controls 38.9% in East European broadcast group CTC Media.
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