ITV studio stars hand investors £156m payday

ITV has handed its shareholders a £156m windfall after building up a sizeable cash pile and posting a six per cent rise in profit.

The broadcaster’s chief executive Adam Crozier announced the one-off special dividend yesterday after months of calls for him to hand money back to investors.

It came as ITV said profits had hit £348m in 2012, driven by its production arm and increased revenues from its online divisions.

The ITV Studios arm, which produces hit shows including Titanic, Downton Abbey, Come Dine With Me and Mr Selfridge, saw annual revenues rise 16 per cent to £712m. The international success of the shows, which were sold to broadcasters around the world, has boosted the business.

The company’s online and internet services such the ITV Player catchup programme also performed well, with revenues from the division rising 26 per cent, thanks in part to the popularity of streaming services such as Lovefilm and Netflix, which broadcast ITV content.

ITV’s improved fortunes under Crozier, the former chief executive of the Football Association and of Royal Mail, since he joined in 2010 mean that the company has built up a sizeable £206m cash pile.

It had been suggested that Crozier would use the cash to fund acquisitions of production studios, but now investors will get a special 4p per share dividend on top of the annual 2.6p payout.

Group revenues rose three per cent in 2012, despite a subdued TV advertising market and the distraction of the BBC’s Olympics.