(STAR) By Zinnia B. Dela Peña -Media conglomerate ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. expects revenues to continue growing this year especially with a planned 15 percent increase on advertising card rates.

The company is also setting aside P1.6 billion capital expenditure budget for 2008.

Rolando Valdueza, the newly-appointed chief finance officer of ABS-CBN, said management is confident it can exceed last year’s performance especially with the consolidation of Sky Cable into the media giant’s financial books and the improving performance of ABS-CBN Global.

ABS-CBN reported a 71 percent jump in net earnings to P1.27 billion on the back of a 17 percent rise in revenues. Buoyed by higher advertising rates and higher volume, revenues of ABS-CBN increased to P19.9 billion.

Valdueza said notwithstanding the slowdown of the US economy, the group expects ABS-Global, which offers ABS-CBN programs to the international market, to post a double digit growth in its susbscriber base. Last year, it has seen its subscribers grow to roughly 1.7 million.

The company’s cable television unit, Sky Cable is seen to contribute 20 percent to total revenues. Sky Cable posted a net income of P100 million last year on gross sales of P3.5 billion.

EBITDA likewise increased to between P800 million to P900 million.

Vivian Tin, vice-president for ABS-CBN’s research and business analysis, said there was a strong growth in advertising minutes in the first quarter this year and this trend is expected to continue given the new quality shows lined up this year. Tin said the company is in talks with advertisers regarding the proposed 15 percent increase on advertising rates. “We hope to implement the price hike end of the month,” she said.

She said the company’s performance during the first quarter continues to be strong. “For the period January to February this year, we grew in terms of minutes and number of advertisements,” Tin said.

The programmed capital budget of P1.6 billion does not include the capital requirements for Sky Cable’s expansion, which officials earlier estimated would entail some P1 billion.

Valdueza said management is considering taking public Sky Cable to fund the roll-out of digital boxes beginning this year as well as expand its prepaid services by offering more affordable denominations and voice-on-demand. “We hope to launch to SkyCable’s IPO by next year, “ he said.

ABS-CBN chairman Eugenio Lopez III earlier told reporters that the group is looking at raising P3 billion from the planned IPO of Sky Cable. SkyCable, which operates in Metro Manila, owns 55 percent of Pilipino Cable Corp., which operates cable channels outside of Manila. ABS-CBN is controlled by one of the family-owned conglomerates in the Philippines, Benpres Holdings Corp.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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