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ITV to sell Friends Reunited, axe 600 jobs

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Broadcaster ITV is slashing 600 jobs and looking to sell its Friends Reunited and Scoot websites after reporting a net loss of £2.55bn last year.

“Current conditions in the advertising market are the most challenging I have experienced in over 30 years in UK broadcasting,” said chairman Michael Grade.

“This is reflected both in our financial results for 2008 and the tough actions we are announcing today.”

ITV confirmed rumours, which have been circulating since the start of the year, that it plans to sell its proto-social network site Friends Reunited.

The country’s largest commercial broadcaster bought Friends Reunited in 2005 for £120m, which has been rapidly superseded by the likes of MySpace and Facebook.

ITV did not release individual figures on what profit or loss was made at Friends Reunited for the year ended 31 December 2008. In the six months to June last year the website pulled in revenues of £10m, down £1m on the same a period in 2007.

ITV also confirmed today that it was looking to dispose of its UK business finder website Scoot.

The company has cut the value of its assets by close to £2.7bn citing "the continuing deterioration in market forecasts and weakness in online advertising."

Advertising sales dropped four per cent to £1.43bn in 2008, marginally ahead of the overall market decline of five per cent, said ITV. The £2.55bn net loss compares with a net income of £137m in 2007.

Adjusted pre-tax profit, excluding a massive write-down, plummeted 41 per cent to £167m last year.

“The board therefore recognises that the 2012 revenue targets set in 2007 are no longer appropriate and we are focusing on our core business as a producer-broadcaster, on reducing our costs and on cash generation,” said Grade.

ITV said it would slash 600 jobs across the company in the latest round of job cuts. In September last year the broadcaster said it would let go of around 1,000 workers by early 2009.

The firm said it has recommended a suspension of its dividend and expects to see ad revenue decline by 17 per cent in the first quarter. ®

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