Scottish broadcaster STV delivered a welcome boost to long-suffering investors as it revealed plans to resume shareholder dividend payments for the first time in seven years.
The group, which broadcasts programmes including Coronation Street, The X Factor and Britain's Got Talent to more than four million TV viewers each month, said it aimed to pay a full-year dividend for 2013 - its first since 2006 - after growing profits and revenues in the first half.
It also announced its productions arm had secured a further commission for 12 episodes of Catchphrase for ITV after the game show was revived i n April with a well-received new series fronted by h ost Stephen Mulhern .
STV posted a 5% hike in underlying pre-tax profits to £6.7 million for the six months to June 30 after revenues rose 8% to £51.2 million thanks to further momentum in its expanding digital and production operations.
STV Productions saw revenues jump by 84% as it was boosted by recent commissions including another series of comedy entertainment show Fake Reaction by ITV, while the BBC ordered a further series of Celebrity Antiques Road Trip earlier this year.
Digital revenues rose by nearly a fifth in the first half, helped by the growing popularity of its STV Player on-demand internet service.
The dividend cheer, which will be confirmed in early 2014, comes after STV's turnaround efforts returned the group to profit last year and it slashed its debt by 22% to £43.4 million in the first half of 2013.
It had been hit by falling advertising revenues, as well as a lengthy legal battle with ITV - a row which compounded financial woes and led to the group dropping several ITV drama series including episodes of Midsomer Murders.
The group ended the dispute with ITV in 2011.
STV said regional airtime revenues remained under pressure, down 6% in the first half, but added this was improving and was set to return to growth of around 2% by the end of September.
National airtime revenues rose 4% in the first half and is expected to pick up further to increase by 6% in the third quarter.
It also expects digital revenues to grow at the same pace in the second half, with 70% of its audience now accessing STV online and the group launching a new mobile and online service across Scotland's largest cities to boost its local broadcast and news offering.
Shares rose 6% after the upbeat half-year results and dividend announcement.
Paul Richards, analyst at Numis Securities, hailed a "good set of numbers", adding that the airtime revenues outlook was encouraging.