As expected, the Packer Empire’s PBL reported higher earnings thanks to its takeover of Burswood Casino, higher profits from ACP Magazines and from its equity investments in groups like Ninemsn, Hoyts Theatres, Seek, Foxtel and Premier Media (Fox Sports).

These offset a 20% or $55 million drop in earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation from the group’s Nine Network.

The Nine result was made to look better than it was because the cost base for the Commonwealth Games was reduced in the 2005 financial year by around $60 million pre-tax.

PBL reported that on an EBITDA basis, “normalised” profit (that is, profit adjusted to take the volatility out of the win/loss rate in its casinos) rose just 2% to $966.7 million, compared to the $948.1 million in 2005. The actual results were a 7.4% rise to $977.7 million from $910.6 million.

PBL said that after non-recurring items, and including equity accounted contributions from associates of $78.3 million ($17.8 million), earnings were up 25% to $610 million from $485.5 million in 2005.

That more impressive rise is the figure the company naturally highlighted in its statement to the ASX. The gaming business made a “normalised” profit of $523 million, more than the combined earnings from ACP Magazines and Nine of $476 million.

The EBITDA figure for Nine saw 20.3% fall to $215.2 million from $270 million in 2005. As at least 30-40% of that figure is actually affiliation fees and shares of affiliates’ sales (from WIN, Southern Cross, Perth and NBN) the actual profit will be much less than that, perhaps in the order of $120 to $130 million at most.

If PBL hadn’t moved on Burswood and secured it and its higher revenues and profits, PBL would have reported a lower profit this year because of the slump at Nine.

ACP Magazines did well, EBITDA rising to $261.4 million from $244.8 million in John Alexander’s last year as CEO. Both Nine and ACP have been or are engaged in staff cuts and other cost-cutting measures at the moment to try and stabilise the business models in the face of tightening revenue outlooks.

The company will pay a dividend of 59c for the year compared to 52c in 2005. The Packer family will share in just over 38% of the total payout of $370 million, or more than $141 million.