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Friday, 4 August, 2000, 09:07 GMT 10:07 UK
United News sharpens focus
Internet cafe
United says it will focus on its internet operations
The UK's United News & Media is planning to transform itself into a world-class market information group after selling most of its television assets.

The statement came as the company announced a 21% rise in first half headline pre-tax profit to 191.2m.

"Our objectives are clear. We are substantially strengthening our balance sheet and now have the financial flexibility and management focus to...develop our position in...high-growth market information sectors," chief executive Clive Hollick said.

After a planned merger with rival ITV group Carlton Communications failed, United last week agreed to sell its production and broadcasting assets to Granada Media for 1.75bn in cash and shares.

Sale expected

The assets, which include the Anglia, HTV and Meridian ITV franchises, will establish Granada as by far the most dominant force among the UK's commercial ITV channels.

However, regulators are likely to require that Granada sell at least one of the franchises. Analysts are tipping HTV as the probable sale, with Carlton the likely buyer.

United has retained its publishing assets, which include the Express newspaper titles, advertising periodicals and new media interests such as CMPNet and Line One.

In June, United said it intended to put the internet at the centre of its operations with a 370m investment programme over two years.

Internet investment

It said it had invested about 49m in online activities between January and June.

Online revenue in the period increased 123% to 23.4m, the company said.

"We will build on market leading businesses CMP, PR Newswire and UIG, while continuing to grow our...online businesses Xilerate and CMPNet," Lord Hollick said.

Group revenue stood 14% higher on the period at 1.15bn.

United proposed an unchanged interim dividend of 11 pence a share.

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