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RTL expects lower profits in 2009 on tough ad market

European broadcaster RTL Group said it would review costs as it headed into what it expects to be a slow year in the face of an advertising slump.

RTL, owned by media giant Bertelsmann, said 2008 adjusted earnings before interest, tax and amortization was up 4.1% at €971 million ($1.24 billion) on sales of €5.77 billion, up 1.2%.

“Operating in a very challenging time, we are experiencing a substantial slowdown in advertising bookings,” Chief Executive Gerhard Zeiler said.

“We will respond to this by focusing on our core business, and by reviewing all costs and structures. This will result in a significantly lower cost base in all of our operations,” he added.

“Given the current state of the advertising markets, and the very short-term bookings cycle ... it has to be expected that the profitability level will be down compared to 2008,” Zeiler said.

RTL said it will propose a total dividend of €3.50 which consists of an ordinary dividend of €1.40 and an extraordinary dividend €2.10 per share.

That compares with an ordinary dividend of €1.30 per share in 2007 and an extraordinary dividend €3.70 for 2007.

RTL's competitor ProSieben last week slashed its dividend and initiated a new cost saving program at its SBS arm as poor advertising markets propelled it to a 2008 net loss.

RTL said net profit attributable to RTL Group shareholders was €194 million versus €563 million, mainly due to a writedown at its UK TV activities of €337 million. (Reuters)