January 14, 2008 / 1:27 PM / 10 years ago

UPDATE 2-Astral says ready for more deals as profit rises

(Adds CEO comments, stock price)

By Wojtek Dabrowski

TORONTO, Jan 14 (Reuters) - Astral Media Inc ACMa.TO ACMb.TO reported a 15 percent jump in first-quarter earnings on Monday and said it's prepared for more acquisitions following its recent C$1.1 billion ($1.01 billion) purchase of privately held Standard Radio Inc.

The Canadian specialty-TV and radio group said it earned C$37.5 million ($36.8 million), or 68 Canadian cents a share, in the three months ended Nov. 30, up from C$32.6 million, or 60 Canadian cents a share, a year earlier.

Revenue for the quarter was C$198.7 million, up 20.4 percent from C$165.1 million a year earlier.

The jump included a 58 percent increase in revenue at its radio division, which this quarter included one-month results from the Standard assets.

The Standard takeover made Astral Canada's biggest radio broadcaster, operating 83 stations in eight provinces. With the deal now closed, Astral Chief Executive Ian Greenberg said the company is ready for more.

"We are open for acquisitions regardless of size," he said. "Our balance sheet is still well within the means of being able to do another large acquisition, should one arise."

He also said the currently tumultuous state of the credit markets doesn't change the company's thinking on dealmaking.

"Based on the state of our balance sheet, based on our record, based on relationships, frankly that's not a concern to us."

Revenues from Astral's outdoor advertising division increased 52 percent due to a strong performance in the Quebec market and a long-term deal with the city of Toronto to provide transit shelters, information pillars, benches and other "street furniture"

Television revenue rose 7 percent, the Montreal-based company said.

Astral shares were up 14 Canadian cents at C$43.08 on the Toronto Stock Exchange late on Monday morning. ($1=$1.02 Canadian) (Additional reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Peter Galloway)

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