February 21, 2018 / 11:24 PM / a year ago

UPDATE 1-Australia's Nine Entertainment H1 profit rises on improved market share

(Adds background, CEO comment, revenue details)

Feb 22 (Reuters) - Australian television network Nine Entertainment on Thursday reported a 55 percent rise in underlying profit in the first half of its fiscal year, helped by a boost in market share from improved ratings.

Net profit after tax, excluding one-off items, rose to A$116.2 million ($90.66 million) during the period, from A$75 million a year earlier. Analysts at Citigroup had forecast an interim profit of A$72 million.

The TV network posted an interim dividend of 5 Australian cents per share, compared to 4.5 Australian cents from a year earlier.

“This was a strong half for Nine, across our entire business. Positive Free To Air TV ratings momentum combined with our focus on the 25-54 year demographics is translating to improving revenue share,” said Chief Executive Hugh Marks.

Including one-off items, the company reported a statutory profit of A$174.1 million as opposed to a loss of A$236.9 million in the same period a year ago, helped by gains on the sale of Nine’s Willoughby site, initially announced in 2015.

Half-year revenue excluding one-off items rose 9 percent to A$723.9 million.

Nine said it expects full year EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, deprecation and amortization) to fall between A$237 million and A$261 million, which it said was the average and the top of the range of analysts’ current estimates

$1 = 1.2817 Australian dollars Reporting by Syed Saif Hussain Naqvi in Bengaluru; Editing by Richard Pullin

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