Australia, the U.S. and Beyond

Profit boost has Oz producer-distributor thinking big

Australian TV production and distribution outfit Beyond International Ltd. is eyeing several overseas acquisitions and an expansion of its U.S. operations in the wake of a 40% jump in annual profits, managing director Mikael Borglund said Monday.

The company — which, with shows like "Mythbusters" for Discovery Networks, has refashioned itself as a key producer of factual programming — reported a boost in after-tax profit to AUS$4.34 million ($3.5 million), despite revenue rising just 4% to AUS$68.4 million ($56 million) for the 12 months through June 30.

Earnings rose 29% to AUS$12.14 million ($9.9 million) in the same period.

Beyond attributed the rise in profit to the "consistent" performance of its factual and kids TV production division, increased international sales and 10 months of earnings from DVD distributor Force Entertainment, which it acquired during the year.

Borglund said the company is looking at production businesses in Australia, the U.S. and the U.K. for possible acquisition but did not give further details.

"These acquisitions would give the company access to new program genres and customers, and the international sales rights would be exploited though existing international distribution infrastructure," Borglund said.

The company also is planning further U.S. expansion, with new Southern California offices being added to its production outposts in Washington and San Francisco.

Modest revenue growth of just 4% was attributed to the January closure of Beyond's feature film sales division, the exit from its low-margin drama production business and the decline in value of the U.S. dollar against the Australian dollar.

Foreign exchange woes pushed program production revenue down 6%, while income from non-Australian sources grew to 67% of total revenue from 55% in 2006. Program production revenue totaled AUS$42.8 million ($35 million), with a slate that includes the Nine Network health series "What's Good for You" and the science series "Beyond Tomorrow" and "Mythbusters."

Revenue from international TV distribution rose 8% to AUS$14.17 million ($11.6 million), contributing to overall TV and DVD distribution revenue of AUS$25 million ($20.5 million) for the year.

The acquisition of digital media and DVD distributor Force Entertainment will help Beyond "more effectively exploit content assets in media such as video on demand and Internet download services," the company said.

Beyond is the only listed Australian production company to remain independent following the scrapping of the country's cross-media ownership laws this year.

Regional broadcaster Prime Television acquired Beyond rival Becker Group, and Southern Star is set to become part of publishing and digital media group Fairfax Media following that company's acquisition of SS parent Southern Cross Broadcasting.

Beyond forecast further earnings and profit growth of 15%–20% in the current fiscal year.