BBC Worldwide keeps growth streak intact

Operating profits up 17% to $232.3 mil

LONDON -- BBC Worldwide posted its fourth successive year of double-digit profit growth, announcing operating profits up 17% to 118 million euros ($232.3 million) for the 12 months ending March 31, on record sales of 916 million euros ($1.8 billion), a rise of 13%.

BBC Worldwide is the pubcaster's commercial division, operating an international channel business, selling formats to such shows as "Dancing With the Stars" and operating publishing, DVD, program sales and program financing units.

Chief executive John Smith said that the record performance had been driven by strong program sales and the company's home video and content production businesses. But he noted that BBC Worldwide's international focus meant profits for the year to come "could be affected by the changing global economic conditions."

Worldwide's non-executive chairman Etienne de Villiers said that the division, which raises money to be plowed back into BBC programming, was "firing on all cylinders" and on track to achieve its five-year growth plans, returning "a substantial stream of additional funding to its parent, the BBC, for the long term."

In the next 12 months, further investments in online businesses such as Kangaroo, the BBC's three-way commercial partnership with Channel 4 and ITV, are expected, as well as a new focus on improving the performance of the BBC's children's business. Smith also announced the closure of Audiocall, the telephone business where payments to charities were wrongly withheld last year.