Germany's largest free-to-air television broadcaster and the former jewel in KirchMedia's now tarnished crown, ProSiebenSat.1 today reported a 69% drop in first-half net profits blaming a weak advertising market for the results.

Announcing the results Pro-SiebenSat.1 chief executive Urs Rohner said a 'cheerless 2002 advertising year' - which included an under-performing World Cup - helped drag down net profits to Euros16m from Euros52m in the same period last year. Revenues fell 4% to Euros985m.

Though the results fell short of a profits warning many shareholders had feared, they are likely to be poured over by the two remaining consortia still bidding for parent KirchMedia.

The broadcast to sports rights subsidiary has selected two bids: one from a consortium lead by Sony and German bank Commerzbank and other comprising US media investor Haim Saban and French broadcaster TF1, to go through to the next stage.

However KirchMedia is understood to have asked a third consortium - lead by German publishing giants Axel Springer and Heinrich Bauer - to increase its initial bid of Euros1.9bn as a condition of proceeding to the final stages.

Though the German publishers will eventually play a part in the sale - Axel Springer owns just under 11.5% of Pro-SiebenSat.1 - they had yet to respond formally by a Wednesday evening deadline.