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Last Updated: Thursday December 11 2008 18:36 GMT

Cowell can't pick X Factor winner

Eoghan, JLS and Alexandra

This year's X Factor final will be the most exciting ever, according to top judge Simon Cowell.

He says he really doesn't know which of the three acts will take the top prize of a record contract worth 1m.

Alexandra Burke has been the favourite all along, but group JLS and 16-year-old Eoghan Quigg could also win.

And it could be an important year to take the top prize, as Cowell said this time round the second-place artist may not get a record deal.

He explained that the cash problems around the world at the moment would make it difficult for him to try to make anyone other than the winner a star.

"I'm not going to make any decisions at this time. I think under the current climate I would say it was more important to win the show this year than any other year.

"Like every other business the record business is tougher than it was last year."

Alexandra Burke
Alexandra has been tipped to win the X Factor
Even though the winner gets a big-money record deal, actually worth just over 1m, they aren't just handed all that cash in a suitcase.

Cowell explained that the winning act will get 150,000, but the rest of the money is spent on making them a success.

He said it costs up to 500,000 to record an album, around 200,000 to make music videos and another 400,000 on marketing and advertising.

But Cowell did say he expected the show's winner to be Christmas number one, whichever of the three finalists wins the most votes.