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Wednesday, 24 November, 1999, 15:04 GMT
TV rentals boost Granada
OnDigital TV, set top box Ondigital is Granada's joint venture with Carlton

Resurgent demand for renting televisions has helped Granada unveil a sharp jump in profits.

The group, which owns regional ITV broadcasters, motels, restaurants and rental shops, also outlined plans to roll out Harry Ramsden fish and chip restaurants at its Little Chef chain.

Chairman Gerry Robinson said the group had been driven by strong performances in its media and hospitality businesses.

"In both areas we have made real progress with our three-year plans and expect to see the benefit of these innovations and investments continue to take effect over the next 12 months," he said.

Little Chef Harry Ramsden is to join Little Chef
Granada's media businesses were boosted by a 6.2% rise in advertising revenue at ITV while its joint venture in digital TV broadcaster Ondigital saw subscriber numbers grow from zero to 440,000.

The group's TV rental business saw new rental agreements jump 16%. A quarter of the new contracts were for people wanting to hire widescreen TV sets.

Profits and turnover up

During the year, Granada bought a 9.9% stake in Liverpool Football Club, giving the group the chance to advise the club on TV licensing, publishing, advertising and merchandise.

It also took an 18.6% stake in the Scottish Media Group, owner of the Scottish and Grampian ITV regional licences.

It now plans to expand some of its hotel chains and roll out the recently acquired Harry Ramsden's fish and chips chain of restaurants across its existing Little Chef, Food Service, and other restaurant motorway sites.

Granada's hotel division, which includes the Posthouse and Heritage chains, saw profits up 15% across Europe and 40% in the rest of the world.

Group profits before tax, exceptional items and digital TV start-up costs rose to 835m in the year to 25 September, from 735m last year.

Gains from the group's sale of its stake in satellite broadcaster BSkyB and the Savoy hotel in London helped push up pre-tax profits by another 221m to 1.06bn.

Turnover also jumped 6% to 4.08bn from 3.86bn.

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