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BT buys sports rights to face down rivals

BT Group said it was confident it could retain its edge over rivals Sky and Virgin in the broadband market when it starts charging customers to watch European Champions League football this year.

The British market leader, which is buying mobile network EE for £12.5bn (€16.9bn), added a record number of customers to its fibre network in the last quarter of its financial year, helping it to beat expectations for annual earnings and raise its free cash flow outlook.

BT has invested heavily on sports rights to fight pay-TV group Sky in the battle for British consumers, offering its share of English Premier League games for no extra charge to its broadband subscribers.

BT Group posted a better than expected 3pc rise in full-year earnings and raised its outlook for free cash flow after a strong finish to the year.