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Ulster T.V. PLC (UTV)

  Print      Mail a friend       Annual reports

Thursday 09 March, 2000

Ulster T.V. PLC

Final Results - Year Ended 31 December 1999

Ulster Television PLC
9 March 2000

                            ULSTER TELEVISION plc                             
                          FINANCIAL RESULTS FOR 1999                          

Highlights :-

-  Television operating profit up by 43% to £11.9m (1998 : £8.3m)

-  Earnings per share (adjusted) up by 52% to 16.04p (1998 : 10.58p)

-  Recommended final dividend for 1999 of 4.40p making a total for the year of
   7.50p (1998 : 6.30p) an increase of 19%. This is in addition to the special
   interim dividend for 1999 of 35p per share which was paid on 26 April 1999.

-  Turnover growth of 3.2% to £38.3m (1998 : £37.2m)

-  Peak time viewing share increased to 44.2% (1998 : 41.7%)

Developments Since Year End :-

-  Remaining investment in S.E.S. sold on 16 February 2000, resulting in a
   profit before tax of  £13.4m.

-  Acquisition on 2 March 2000 of Direct Net Access Ltd, the leading internet
   service provider in Northern Ireland for a consideration of £4.25m.

For Further Information :-

-    John McCann         Ulster Television plc         01232 262201

-    Jim Downey          Ulster Television plc         01232 262176

-    Bobby Leach         Shandwick                     0171 329 0096



Financial Results
I am pleased to report operating profit for the year of £11.9m (1998 : £8.3m),
a 43% improvement deriving principally from the achievement of significant
cost reductions under the restructuring programme to which I referred in my
interim statement.  The one-off exceptional charge of £4.8m associated with
the restructuring programme reduced pre-tax profits to £7.8m (1998 : £12.5m,
this comparator having been increased by an exceptional profit of £2.5m on
part disposal of our S.E.S. shareholding). The pre-tax profit included
investment income of £0.8m  (1998 : £1.7m) which was substantially down
following payment of the special dividend in April 1999. The  adjusted
earnings per share increased by 52% to 16.04p (1998 : 10.58p).

Advertising and sponsorship revenue accounted for £37.4m (1998 : £36.7m) of
our turnover of £38.3m (1998 : £37.2m).  Growth in advertising revenue lagged
the network due primarily to the absence in our region of significant
expenditure on self-promotional advertising, particularly in respect of
OnDigital, which was a key feature in many ITV regions.

Your Board is recommending a final dividend for 1999 of 4.40p (1998 : 3.50p)
which, together with the interim already paid of 3.10p (1998 : 2.80p) amounts
to a total dividend for the year of 7.50p (1998 : 6.30p).  This represents a
19 % increase over the previous year and moves the dividend towards a level
which would be commensurate with the enhanced operating profitability of the
Company.   The final dividend will be paid on 8 May 2000 to shareholders on
the Register at the close of business on 24 March 2000.

Societe Europeenne des Satellites (S.E.S.)
As early shareholders in S.E.S. we have enjoyed the fruits of the success of a
company whose Astra family of satellites has become a household name in Europe
and beyond.  Strong dividend growth was complemented by healthy capital
appreciation which was evidenced in the successful flotation of S.E.S. in
1998, enabling us to realise a pre-tax profit of £2.5m through a partial sale
of our holding.  There was no strategic reason, however, for us to retain our
holding in S.E.S. after flotation and I previously reported our intention to
dispose of the holding when appropriate.  There has recently been a marked
improvement in the share price of S.E.S. after a period of relative under-
performance and we took the opportunity to dispose of our entire holding of
139,000 shares on 16 February 2000.  Net proceeds after payment of tax are
estimated at £10.1m. The £13.4m profit arising from this transaction will be
accounted for in the financial year to 31 December 2000 but full details are
disclosed in Note 6 to these accounts.

The explosive growth in internet usage in the south of England is already
generating significant additional advertising revenue in that region and this
growth is expected to be replicated throughout the rest of G.B. and Ireland.
As a leading media company in Ireland, we are well placed to take advantage of
the opportunities which the acceleration of internet penetration will create.
Our substantial presence in homes throughout the island of Ireland provides
not only a strong marketing platform for emerging companies but also
provides us with the opportunity to create a strongly branded internet
proposition for consumer and business alike.  To avail ourselves of that
opportunity and offer an immediate presence in the emerging market, we have
acquired the leading internet service provider in Northern Ireland, Direct Net
Access Limited (DNA), and have secured the services of its key management. The
consideration of £4.25m comprises £0.5m in cash and £3.75m of loan stock. This
loan stock, subject to a change in the Company's Articles of Association which
requires shareholder approval, will be convertible into approximately 1.6
million of new ordinary shares in Ulster Television at a conversion price of
£2.30 per share.  We are confident that we can use the existing subscriber
base and expertise of DNA as a platform from which to launch an internet
service with a well-established and trusted brand loyalty, supported by our
marketing presence throughout Ireland.  Our objectives will be to achieve
significant subscriber growth and to develop and exploit e-commerce
opportunities.  We  will deploy such resources as are required to achieve our
objectives consistent with enhancing long-term shareholder value.

Republic of Ireland
We remain committed to our objective of developing our service in the Republic
of Ireland within the concept of extending the accessibility of all the
indigenous channels in Ireland throughout the whole island.  The practical
issues are complex and the concept requires careful nurturing and explanation
to ensure that the benefits to broadcasters and viewers in both parts of
Ireland are understood.  A Broadcasting Bill was introduced in the Republic
last year setting out, inter alia, the framework for digital terrestrial
television.  We accepted an invitation to appear before a Select Committee of
the Dail to express our views on the Bill and we put forward proposals which,
if adopted, would provide the foundations upon which the concept of extended
accessibility for indigenous channels could be built.  The Bill is expected to
be enacted before the summer.

Prospects for 2000
The sourcing of our revenue from three market areas, namely GB (national UK
wide) advertisers, Northern Ireland regional advertisers and all-Ireland
advertisers, gives rise to variations from the ITV growth pattern but also
provides a wider, and more stable, base for growth.  The Irish economy
continues to perform well and we remain confident of sustained growth in that
market.  After a period of under-performance in the Northern Ireland regional
market the outlook for the year looks encouraging.   Self-promotion is likely
to continue this year as a key ingredient in the ITV mix of advertising
revenue and obtaining a relevant share of this at this stage remains
unrealistic.  However, the strong growth in internet related advertising which
the London companies have been enjoying will gradually spill out to the other
regions on the back of increasing levels of internet penetration and we expect
to see an upward trend in this sector.  Overall, 2000 has got off to a good
start and we would expect to see our share of ITV advertising revenue
maintained, and perhaps improved upon, in the year ahead.

Our restructuring programme was completed by the end of 1999 and all costs
associated with it have been accounted for in that year.  Our objective was to
achieve a 10% reduction, net of the increase in our licence fee, in our
operating costs and this was largely effected in 1999.  Some further cost
reductions will flow through into 2000 which should contain our total
operating costs at about the 1999 level, a reduction in real terms.
The development of our internet business will be a priority in the year ahead
but this should not have any significant dilutive effect on earnings which
will be supported by continuing strong profit generation in our core
television business.  Prospects for growth in internet related activities are
excellent but realising the full profit potential for your Company will
require further investment.  Your Board is totally committed to achieving that

John McCann was appointed Managing Director on 1 October 1999 and has a wealth
of experience of the industry, having previously served in a number of senior
executive roles in the Company. His predecessor, Desmond Smyth, served as
Managing Director from 1983 and under his leadership the Company made
exceptional progress. Lady McCollum also retired during the year after many
years of distinguished service to the Company.  I thank both Desmond Smyth and
Lady McCollum for their contribution and wish them every good fortune for the

I also wish to express my appreciation to all of our staff who responded to
the many challenges of the year with commitment and professionalism.  The
hidden cost of the restructuring programme was the particular stress which it
placed upon our staff but it is a tribute to all that we maintained our
leadership in the television marketplace throughout and emerged from the
process as a leaner and stronger company, prepared for the future.

J B McGuckian
9 March 2000



Financial Results
Television operating profit for the year increased by 42.9% to £11.9m (1998 :
£8.3m) on turnover of £38.3m (1998 : £37.2m).  Our cost reduction programme
delivered significant benefits in the year and, despite a £1.2m increase in
our licence payments, we reduced our total television operating costs by 8.3%
to £26.5m (1998 : £28.9m).  Our operating margin improved to 30.9% (1998 :

Adjusted earnings per share, which excludes the impact of exceptional items
and investment income, increased by 51.6% to 16.04p (1998 : 10.58p).

Turnover for the year increased to £38.3m (1998 : £37.2m) an increase of 3.2%
over the previous year.  Advertising and sponsorship income of £37.4m (1998 :
£36.7m) accounted for nearly 98% of turnover.

ITV's advertising revenue increased by 6.2% to £1,874m representing 60.7% of
the total television advertising market.  Although down on the 1998 share of
62.3%, nevertheless against the backdrop of a growing multi-channel
environment this was a commendable performance and reflected the greater
investment in, and reinvigoration of, the ITV schedule.

While we benefited from the improved perception of ITV in the market place, a
number of factors combined to produce a market share for us of 1.95%, lower
than last year's share of 2.05%.  In particular, ITV revenue included
substantial self-promotion monies, primarily in respect of OnDigital, in which
we currently do not share.  Adjusting ITV revenue figures to exclude self-
promotion, our share in 1999 would have been 2.02% (1998 : 2.08%).

We source our revenue from three separate and very distinctive markets.  These
are the GB market (national UK wide advertisers), the regional Northern
Ireland market and the all-Ireland advertising market.  The economies of these
three markets are invariably at different cyclical stages.  In 1999, for
example, financial marketing was very active in GB but subdued in Northern
Ireland, while Internet marketing was focussed in London with little
development outside that region.  This trend will reverse as Internet
penetration increases throughout the whole of the UK.  The all-Ireland market
has been enjoying healthy growth in line with economic activity in the
Republic of Ireland.

Television Operating Costs
We undertook a fundamental review of our operations following the renewal of
our licence on 1 January 1999.  This review resulted in a major restructuring
of the workforce and related cost structure of the Company.  The exceptional
charge of £4.8m associated with this restructuring is in respect of
compensation for the removal of the profit share scheme and regrading of jobs
together with the costs of implementing early retirement and voluntary
severance packages.

The review also targeted all other operational and overhead costs with the
objective of achieving across the board savings without diminution in the
range, quality or quantity of our programme output.  Additionally, we were
able to negotiate the extension of a sub-lease with an existing tenant on our
vacant leased premises in London which triggered the release of £0.44m  from a
provision for future costs.

These measures reduced our costs, before licence fees, for the year by £3.6m,
or 13.3%, from £27.7m in 1998 to £24.1m in 1999.  Our new licence fee of £2.4m
was £1.2m higher than the previous year.  This licence fee will reduce over
time with the growth in viewership to our digital transmission services which
are free of licence fee payments.  Total television operating costs,
therefore, reduced by £2.4m from £28.9m in 1998 to £26.5m in 1999.
Capital Expenditure and Technical Operations

Our capital investment for the year was £1.6m (1998 : £1.8m).  A new Central
Technical Area, with a digital infrastructure, was built to accommodate all
our transmission facilities, for both analogue and digital services.  This
area is currently being equipped, with an emphasis on automated systems, and
transmission operations will shortly be transferred to it.  We also completed
work on new garage facilities at Havelock House for our outside broadcast
vehicles, thus eliminating the inefficiencies of having  two sites.  Our
Londonderry studio had become increasingly difficult to service and we
relocated to new and more convenient premises, with good communication links.

The phased conversion of all our facilities from analogue to digital continues
and most of our programme material is now shot and post-produced on digital
formats. Following successful trials, we enhanced our news gathering
capabilities through the appointment of video journalists in Coleraine and
Enniskillen and we plan to make further such appointments in other areas
during the current year.

We successfully launched our new digital channel, TVYou, in June.  This highly
automated service is only available to a relatively small number of viewers
with the necessary digital set-top boxes.  As viewers connect to digital over
the next few years, revenue opportunities will improve.

In common with most other organisations, we devoted considerable effort to
ensuring that problems arising from Y2K computer issues would be minimised.
All our systems were evaluated and upgraded where necessary and we also put in
place contingency plans to cope with a range of potential downside scenarios.
Total expenditure in this regard for the year was £88,000.  As a result of
these measures, all our systems functioned satisfactorily throughout the
anticipated period of difficulty.

Programme Service
Our share of viewing for the year across all-time (09.25am - 06.00am) was
36.4% (1998 : 36.5%).  The corresponding figure for the ITV Network was 31.2%
(1998 : 31.7%).  In peak-time, (7.00pm - 10.30pm), our share of viewing was
44.2% (1998 : 41.7%) and the Network's was 38.8% (1998 : 37.9%).

Our share of viewing was the highest in the Network, some 14% greater than the
Network average.  This is most gratifying in the region which has the
strongest terrestrial competition in the ITV system. Increased choice of
channels presented considerable challenges so it is pleasing to note that our
regional programmes continued to perform particularly well. We look forward to
their continuing success and welcome the ITV Network Centre's commitment to
grow the peak-time schedule in 2000.

In 1999 we provided 675 hours of regional programmes, an average of 13 hours
each week, which exceeded our Licence requirement of 650 hours. We attach a
great deal of importance to our regional programmes, and they contribute very
significantly to the success of our schedule and to the very positive
relationship we enjoy with our viewers. Our regional programmes attract almost
20% more viewers proportionately than the ITV average, and this popularity
justifies their scheduling in and near peak-time.   The gap between our share
of viewing and that of BBC-NI is the largest in the United Kingdom.
Broadcasting in Northern Ireland requires great sensitivity and sound
editorial judgement, and we are indebted to all our staff who contribute
directly and indirectly to the success of our programme schedule.

J McCann
Managing Director
9 March 2000

Ulster Television plc

Profit and Loss Account

Year ended 31 December 1999

                                                          1999       1998
                                             Notes       £'000      £'000
Turnover                                                38,340     37,164
Television operating costs                            (26,474)   (28,858)
                                                      --------  ---------
Television operating profit before                                       
exceptional items                                       11,866      8,306
Exceptional items                                                        
-Fundamental restructuring costs             2         (4,827)          0
-Profit on part disposal of listed                                       
investment                                                   0      2,454
Investment income                                          775      1,718
                                                      --------  ---------
Profit on ordinary activities before                                     
taxation                                                 7,814     12,478
Taxation on profit on ordinary activities              (2,213)    (4,030)
                                                      --------  ---------
Profit for the financial year                            5,601      8,448
Ordinary dividends                                     (3,941)    (3,310)
Special dividend                                      (18,391)          0
                                                      --------   --------
Transfer (from)/to reserves                           (16,731)      5,138
                                                      --------   --------
                                                      --------   --------
Earnings per share                                                       
Diluted                                      3          10.66p     16.08p
                                                      --------   --------
                                                      --------   --------
Basic (FRS 14)                               3          10.66p     16.09p
                                                      --------   --------
                                                      --------   --------
Adjusted                                     3          16.04p     10.58p
                                                      --------   --------
                                                      --------   --------
Dividend per share                                       7.50p      6.30p
                                                      --------   --------
                                                      --------   --------
Recognised gains and losses                                              

There are no recognised gains and losses other than the profit attributable to
shareholders for the financial year of £5,601,000 in the year ended 31
December 1999 and £8,448,000 in the year ended 31 December 1998.

Ulster Television plc

Balance Sheet

31 December 1999
                                                          1999       1998
                                             Notes       £'000      £'000
Fixed Assets                                                             
Tangible Assets                                          6,595      6,171
Investments                                                700        707
                                                       -------    -------
                                                         7,295      6,878
                                                       -------    -------
Current Assets                                                           
Stocks                                                   1,168      1,302
Debtors                                                  5,875      6,563
Short term cash deposits                                   150     21,979
Cash at bank and in hand                                 2,881      2,056
                                                       -------    -------
                                                        10,074     31,900
Creditors:amounts falling due within one                                 
year                                                  (11,991)   (16,010)
                                                      --------   --------
Net current (liabilities)/assets                       (1,917)     15,890
                                                      --------   --------
Total assets less current liabilities                    5,378     22,768
Creditors:amounts falling due after more                                 
than one year
Amounts due for film rights                              (194)      (298)
Provision for liabilities and charges                    (317)      (872)
                                                     ---------   --------
Net assets                                               4,867     21,598
                                                     ---------   --------
                                                     ---------   --------
Capital and reserves                                                     
Called-up equity share capital                           2,627      2,627
Share premium account                                      125        125
Profit and loss account                                  2,115     18,846
                                                     ---------   --------
Equity shareholders' funds                   4           4,867     21,598
                                                     ---------   --------
                                                     ---------   --------

Ulster Television plc

Statement of Cash Flows
Year ended 31 December 1999
                                                          1999       1998
                                             Notes       £'000      £'000
Net cash flow from operating activities      5           5,910     10,527
                                                      --------   --------
Returns on investments and servicing of                                  
Interest received                                          754      1,290
Dividends received                                         205        362
                                                      --------    -------
                                                           959      1,652
                                                      --------    -------
                                                       -------    -------
UK Corporation Tax paid (including Advance             (4,050)    (2,049)
Corporation Tax)
Capital (expenditure)/receipts                                           
Payments to acquire tangible fixed assets              (2,007)    (1,596)
Receipts from sale of tangible fixed assets                 29        103
Receipts from sale of listed investment                      7      2,595
Receipts from sale of unlisted investment                    7          0
                                                     ---------   --------
                                                       (1,964)      1,102
                                                     ---------   --------
Equity dividends paid                                                    
Ordinary dividends                                     (3,468)    (3,150)
Special dividend                                      (18,391)          0
                                                     ---------   --------
                                                      (21,859)    (3,150)
                                                     ---------   --------
Change in net funds                                   (21,004)      8,082
Management of liquid resources                                           
Decrease/(Increase) in cash on deposit                  21,829    (8,448)
                                                     ---------   --------
Increase/(decrease) in cash                                825      (366)
                                                     ---------   --------
                                                     ---------   --------
                                                          1999       1998
Reconciliation of net cash flow to movement              £'000      £'000
in net funds
Increase/(decrease) in cash                                825      (366)
Cash (inflow)/outflow from                                               
(decrease)/increase in cash on deposit                (21,829)      8,448
                                                      --------   --------
Change in net funds                                   (21,004)      8,082
Net funds at 1 January                                  24,035     15,953
                                                      --------   --------
Net funds at 31 December                                 3,031     24,035
                                                      --------   --------
                                                      --------   --------

Ulster Television plc

Notes to the accounts

31 December 1999

1  Basis of preparation
The results for the years ended 31 December 1999 and 31 December 1998 are an
abridged extract of the Company's full accounts on which the auditors have
issued unqualified reports. The Company's full accounts for the year ended 31
December 1998 have been filed with the Registrar of Companies. The financial
information contained in this statement does not constitute full accounts
within the meaning of Article 262 of the Companies (Northern Ireland) Order

2   Exceptional items
Fundamental restructuring costs
The Company undertook a review of its operations following the renewal of its
licence. This review has resulted in a major restructuring of the workforce
and related cost structure of the Company. The costs associated with this
restructuring up to 31 December 1999 total £4.8m and are in respect of
compensation for the removal of the employee profit share scheme and regrading
of jobs, together with the costs associated with the implementation of early
retirement and voluntary severance packages to substantially reduce the
Company's workforce.

The tax effect in the profit and loss account of the exceptional items
recognised below operating profit is a credit of £1,460,000 (1998 : £761,000

3   Earnings per share
Basic earnings per share, in accordance with Financial Reporting Standard No
14 (FRS 14), is calculated on the weighted average number of shares in issue
(after excluding Nil shares (1998 : 57,008) owned by the Ulster TV ESOP Trust)
during the period being 52,546,600 (1998 : 52,489,592) and is based on profit
for the financial year after exceptional items and taxation of £5,601,000
(1998 : £8,448,000).

Diluted earnings per share is calculated on 52,546,831 shares (reflecting the
dilutive potential of the Employee Share Option Scheme) in issue during the
year (1998 : 52,546,600 inclusive of the shares owned by the Ulster TV ESOP
Trust) and is based on profit for the financial year of £5,601,000 (1998 :

An adjusted earnings per share has been calculated to exclude the impact of
exceptional restructuring costs, profit on sale of investments and investment
income. The adjusted earnings per share is based on operating profits and is
intended to provide a comparable measure of historical performance.

                                                       1999         1998
                                                          p            p
Diluted Earnings per Share                            10.66        16.08
To reflect the dilutive potential of the                                
Employee Share Option Scheme                           0.00         0.00
To reflect the shares owned by the Ulster TV                            
ESOP Trust                                             0.00         0.01
                                                  ---------    ---------
Basic (FRS 14) Earnings per Share                     10.66        16.09
Exceptional fundamental restructuring costs            9.18         0.00
Exceptional profit on part disposal of listed          0.00       (4.68)
Investment income                                    (1.47)       (3.27)
Taxation relating to the above items                 (2.33)         2.44
                                                   --------     --------
Adjusted Earnings per Share                           16.04        10.58
                                                   --------     --------
                                                   --------     --------

Notes to the accounts (contd)

31 December 1999
4 Reconciliation of shareholders' funds and movement in reserves
                                   Equity      Share   Profit and           
                                    share    premium         loss
                                  capital    account      account      Total
                                    £'000      £'000        £'000      £'000
Balance at 31 December 1997         2,627        125       13,708     16,460
Profit for the year                     0          0        8,448      8,448
Dividends                               0          0      (3,310)    (3,310)
                                 --------    -------     --------    -------
Balance at 31 December 1998         2,627        125       18,846     21,598
Profit for the year                     0          0        5,601      5,601
Dividends                               0          0     (22,332)   (22,332)
                                 --------    -------     --------   --------
Balance at 31 December 1999         2,627        125        2,115     4, 867
                                 --------    -------     --------    -------
                                 --------    -------     --------    -------

5    Reconciliation of operating profit to net cashflow from operating
                                                          1999          1998
                                                         £'000         £'000
Operating profit                                        11,866         8,306
Depreciation charges                                     1,149         1,039
Profit on sale of tangible fixed assets                   (24)          (57)
Decrease in stocks                                         134            90
(Increase)/decrease in debtors                           (278)           408
(Decrease)/increase in creditors                       (2,783)           821
Decrease in provisions                                   (555)          (80)
                                                    ----------     ---------
                                                         9,509        10,527
Exceptional items - restructuring costs                (3,599)             0
                                                     ---------     ---------
Net cash inflow from operating activities                5,910        10,527
                                                     ---------     ---------
                                                     ---------     ---------

Ulster Television plc

Notes to the accounts (contd)

31 December 1999

6   Post balance sheet events

Societe Europeenne des Satellites (S.E.S.)
On 16 February 2000 the Company sold its remaining shareholding in S.E.S for
£14,077,000 resulting in a profit of £13,378,000. The taxation on the capital
gain arising amounted to £3,982,000.

Direct Net Access Limited
On 2 March 2000, the Company acquired the entire issued share capital of
Direct Net Access Limited for a consideration of £4.25m. The consideration
comprised £0.5m in cash and £3.75m of secured loan stock. The loan stock will
bear interest at the Northern Bank base rate plus 0.45% payable six monthly in
arrears and is redeemable between 1 September 2000 and 31 August 2005.  It is
the Directors' intention, subject to a change in the Company's Articles of
Association which requires shareholder approval, that the loan stock holders
may convert the loan stock to ordinary shares in the Company at a conversion
rate of £2.30 of loan stock per share.

This summary has been approved by our Directors for release to the Press today
9 March 2000 and the full printed Annual Report and Accounts will be posted
to Shareholders and Stock Exchanges on 3 April 2000.  Copies will be available
to the public at the Company's registered office Havelock House, Ormeau Road,
Belfast BT7 1EB from that date.