Australia's Southern Star Group registered sales revenues of $101m (A$193m) in the 12 months to March 31, a 35% rise over the previous year. The company's operating profit before tax and abnormals was $4.4m, double the previous result.

Executive chair Neil Balnaves attributed the improvement to better cost controls, foreign exchange gains on the international distribution business, improved marketing, more targeted programme acquisitions and an expansion of the duplicating business.

He said the company would continue to expand the number of programme hours produced while reducing cash outlays. The programme production arm's investment fell from $7.9m in 1999, to $1m in 2000. The operation recorded a net inflow of $1.4m in the 12 months to the end of March through international co-production arrangements.

Balnaves announced that another DVD production line would be going into Southern Star Duplitek, increasing annual capacity from nine to 12 million units a year. This arm of the business has always been an important cash cow for what is one of Australia's top three television production houses.

Balnaves also noted that international markets, particularly in Europe, had begun to show signs of improvement.