Sir Alan Sugar's electronics group Amstrad posted falling profits as the entrepreneur last night launched his second series of The Apprentice.
Amstrad blamed lower sales of its high value Sky Plus set-top boxes for the 12 per cent fall in profits to £12.5 million for the six months to New Year's Eve.
Amstrad sales tumbled from £63 million in the first half of the last financial year to £49.6 million this time.
Business in 2004 was boosted by a huge jump in sales as satellite TV subscribers rushed to upgrade their technology in the run-up to Christmas.
It followed the introduction of Sky Plus - digital TV which allows customers to pause live programmes and record one channel while watching another.
The subscription service offers an Amstrad-made personal video recorder (PVC) and was marketed with the slogan "create your own TV channel".
Amstrad also supplies Sky with hardware for its standard satellite service.
But while overall sales volumes in the UK were similar to a year ago, a lower proportion of people bought the more advanced set-top boxes than the standard model. There was a similar pattern in shipments to Sky Italia.
Sir Alan said revenues were also hit by the "inevitable downward pressure" on selling prices "which is an ongoing trend in the industry".
He forecast strong sales in the second half of the year.
"In early January we announced that we expected sales in the second half of the financial year to be better than we had originally expected and we continue to anticipate this to be the case," he said.
In September, Amstrad agreed a deal with BSkyB to develop and supply a new PVR set-top box incorporating a hard-drive which it today said "should result in significant volumes being sold" in the next financial year. The company, based in Brentwood, Essex, added it was developing new hardware for high definition TV which it hopes will go on sale next year.
Amstrad said sales of its "emailer" home videophone, which offers email, fax, inter-net access and games, were strong in the first half.
Most of the Emailer Plus stock was bought by Argos and Dixons and its latest E3 model is due to be sold to Tesco next month, retailing at £19.99.
More than 450,000 emailers have now been bought since the first model was introduced in 2000.
Amstrad said it was also monitoring its move into the consumer healthcare market following the launch of home beauty kit Integra, which was developed by the winner of the first series of The Apprentice Tim Campbell.
Sir Alan said it was "still early days" for Integra, which is sold online and claims to reduce wrinkles by using small amounts of electricity to tone the facial muscles.
Altium Securities analyst Ian Robertson said it was "a strong set of results" as he forecast annual pretax profits to rise from £19.4 million last year to £19.9 million this time around.
"These results have confirmed our faith in Amstrad," he said. "The company is well on the way to achieving full-year forecasts."