Shares of Glasgow-based media firm STV Group rose about 4% on Tuesday after it reported a “better than expected 2020 performance” with revenue slipping 14% to £107.1 million.
Nonetheless, profit before tax plunged 65% to £6.7 million.
Amid what it called an “improving outlook” STV said its board has “recommended a return to cash dividend payments and a final dividend of 6.0p per share for 2020, giving a full year cash equivalent dividend of 9.0p” – a 43% increase on 2019.
STV CEO Simon Pitts said: “STV is coming through the pandemic with confidence.
“With profit and net debt materially better than expectations, the 2020 financial results we are confirming today are testament to the strength of our business and the commitment and creativity of our people in what has been an extraordinary 12 months.
“We enjoyed record audience growth in 2020, with TV viewing up 14% and online viewing up 68%, the biggest gains of any UK broadcaster, and were also able to accelerate delivery of our strategy.
“Our advertising Growth Fund enabled us to attract 91 new Scottish advertisers, we bolstered our successful digital content strategy with a further 1200 hours of content, and we launched our streaming service STV Player across the UK for the first time meaning it is now available in over 17m homes.
“STV Studios also secured 19 new programme commissions, the largest number ever, as it looks to establish itself as the UK’s leading nations and regions producer.
“We took proactive steps to conserve cash and raise capital from shareholders and, combined with better than expected trading, we now have a significantly strengthened balance sheet as we look to invest £30m in the next phase of our strategic growth, targeting at least 50% of our operating profit from outside traditional broadcasting by 2023.
“With an improved financial position and good growth prospects the board has also recommended a return to cash dividend payments and a final dividend of 6p per share, giving a full year dividend of 9p per share for 2020.
“We have made another strong start to the year on screen and online, with TV viewing up a further 14% and STV Player up 83%.
“Advertising trends are also improving materially, with April forecast to be up 60-75% and Jan-April +7-9% as lockdown hopefully begins to ease.
“Our positive momentum in Studios continues, with recent ground-breaking commission Murder Island for Channel 4, and filming about to start on our new drama series, Screw, also for C4.
“There is also much to look forward to on STV with more new drama than ever in 2021, as well as the exciting prospect of the delayed Euro 2020 football championships involving both England and Scotland.
“While there is inevitably still uncertainty around the pandemic, we are positive about the future outlook.”