BSkyB posts rise in profits
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB today heaped further pressure on News Corporation's plans to take full control of the company after it said it continued to attract more customers to its TV and broadband services.
Underlying profits at Sky increased 24pc to £790m (€887m) in the nine months to March 31 as new services such as the recently-launched Sky Atlantic channel helped customer numbers grow to 10.1 million.
The latest strong trading performance is likely to place more pressure on Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to offer more money as it tries to buy the 61pc of the company it does not already own.
UK Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to make a decision on the bid within days after News Corp offered to allow Sky News to be run as a separate company to satisfy concerns over media plurality.
Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch described the third quarter results as "another good performance in what has clearly been a tough consumer environment".
Revenues grew 14pc to £4.8bn (€5.4bn) as Sky encouraged more customers to sign up to a package of TV, telephone and broadband services. Some 26pc of its customers now sign up to all three products, which represents a 40pc increase on a year ago.
This helped the average amount paid per customer to increase 8pc to £544 (€611) per year.
Net customer numbers increased by 51,000 in the first three months of 2011 as Sky added to its TV offering with the launch of the Sky Atlantic channel featuring Boardwalk Empire.
Other recent products include Sky Anytime Plus, which allows customers to watch movies and programmes whenever they like.
Sky also reported that the number of customers watching its high definition products increased nearly 50pc over the past year to 3.7 million.
Another strong quarter for Sky is expected to add pressure on News Corp to pay more to buy the company.
Last year its initial offer of 700p per share, equating to a total price of £7.8bn (€8.8bn), was dismissed by the board as too low.
In the meantime, the companies have been working together to clear the way for a takeover in the face of opposition from rivals.
An alliance of media groups, including BT, Guardian Media Group, Associated Newspapers, Trinity Mirror, Northcliffe Media and Telegraph Media have opposed the deal.
News Corp has offered to subsidise Sky News to run as a separate company for 10 years to satisfy concerns that his company would have too much control over the media in the UK.
Mr Hunt has since indicated that he is minded to allow the acquisition to take place.