UTV profit up 176%; expansion planned

Disney-backed broadcast investment coming soon

Related: UTV joins top 20 N.A. distributors

NEW DELHI -- UTV Software Communications, owner of one of India's biggest film production and distribution firms, on Tuesday reported net profits of $6.27 million for the three months ending June 30, up 176% from the same period a year ago.

Mumbai-based UTV -- which also has interests in broadcasting, animation and gaming and is 32.1%-owned by the Walt Disney Co. -- said that quarterly revenue rose to $36.3 million, up 154% from the $14.27 million earned in the same period in 2007.

UTV Motion Pictures bucked Bollywood's sluggish earnings trend with help from such blockbusters as "Jodha Akbar," which helped boost UTV's North American sales to $5.48 million in the first six months of the year, up sharply from sales of less than $500,000 in the same period in 2007.

"This quarter has again witnessed a triple-digit revenue growth which is a result of our perseverance and commitment to produce and entertain our viewers with good quality cinema," UTV chairman and CEO Ronnie Screwvala said in a statement.

Meanwhile, broader Bollywood lost about $37.5 million in the first half of the year as most of the 47 films released delivered below expectations.

Looking ahead, Screwvala said that UTV will expand its gaming interests with board-approved investments totaling $75 million. The money will fund a U.S.-based online gaming startup and back the planned purchase of a U.S. mobile games entity, he said.

The investments also will increase UTV's stake in U.K.-based gaming company Ignition to 95%, up from the 70% UTV purchased for $13 million in December 2006. UTV will then underwrite Ignition's moves to develop high-end console games.

"The outlook for this fiscal is very attractive, given the initiatives that we are implementing in all our five verticals, i.e. television, movies, interactive, broadcasting and new media," Screwvala said.

UTV also said it plans to expand its broadcasting business with Disney's help, investing 75% of an amount expected to be announced later this week.

In February, Disney upped its stake in UTV Software Communications to 32.1%, announcing a total investment of about $330 million.

"With the strategic relationship with Disney, we have delivered on our commitment to maximize long-term shareholder value," Screwvala said.