(Corrects EBITDA figure in third paragraph)
WARSAW, May 11 (Reuters) - Shares in Poland’s largest media group Cyfrowy Polsat hit a two-and-a-half-year high on Thursday after higher operating income and a one-off forex gain drove first quarter net profits higher than expected.
Cyfrowy, owned by billionaire Zygmunt Solorz-Zak, said net profit for the three-month period jumped 59 percent to 279 million zlotys ($71.67 million). Analysts polled by Reuters forecast 180 million zlotys.
The company’s reported earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) rose by 10 percent year on year to 929 million zlotys in the first quarter, while operating costs fell by 4 percent to 1.31 billion.
Cyfrowy’s share price was up 6.4 percent by 1108 GMT to its highest level since October 2014 and the company was the best performing stock on the large-cap WIG20 index on Thursday.
Cyfrowy’s Chief Financial Officer Katarzyna Ostap-Tomann forecast, however, that the group’s 2017 EBITDA would fall short of the 2016 level, when it was boosted by the Polish national team’s best ever performance in the Euro football championship.
Cyfrowy owns one of Poland’s largest private televisions Polsat and said revenue from TV advertisement and sponsoring rose by 1.9 percent year-on-year in the first quarter to 234 million zlotys.
“We would be very happy if this year’s EBITDA remained at the last year’s level, adjusted for Euro 2016,” Ostap-Tomann told reporters.
Cyfrowy also owns one of Poland’s largest mobile network operators Polkomtel, also known under the brand Plus, which booked a revenue of 1.681 billion zlotys in the first quarter, accounting for roughly 70 percent of the group’s revenue.
Chief Executive Tobias Solorz, the son of Zygmunt, said Cyfrowy’s focus was on reducing its net debt to EBITDA ratio to 1.75 from 2.88 currently. The company’s net debt stood at 10.74 billion zlotys, most of it due in 2020.
Asked about the time frame for reducing debt, Solorz said: “as soon as possible.”
Cyfrowy's full first-quarter financial report is available here: bit.ly/2r3VS4S ($1 = 3.8931 zlotys) (Reporting by Marcin Goettig; editing by Richard Lough)