BSkyB set for record profits 350 wordy

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The Independent Online
SATELLITE broadcaster BSkyB is set to announce record first-half profits this week, as the Office of Fair Trading starts to sift complaints from cable TV competitors that may lead to a monopolies probe.

BSkyB, 40 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch, ended the week in further controversy after the Government warned against a blanket ban on it poaching yet more TV sport.

The House of Lords is due to vote on Tuesday on an amendment to the new Broadcasting Bill aimed at stopping BSkyB getting its hands on rights to the English and Scottish FA Cup finals, the World Cup, Wimbledon, Test matches, the Grand National, the Derby and the Olympic Games.

Earlier last week Mr Murdoch suffered another setback to his ambitions, losing out to a $1.44bn (pounds 947m) bid for the Olympics from the BBC and other European broadcasters, despite offering $2bn for the rights.

BSkyB shares shook off the news, however, rising 18p to 414p on the week, as the market looked forward surging subscriptions and Christmas dish sales. "They should be very good numbers. Regulatory worries pull the other way, but as soon as the figures come in the market will get excited about growth," one media analyst said.

Brokers are predicting first- half pre-tax profits of pounds 100m-pounds 118m, up from pounds 55m, when BSkyB reports on Tuesday, with a possible first-ever interim dividend of up to 2.5p.

Increased subscription rates should also feed through and analysts are now predicting BSkyB will add another 500,000 subscribers, via dish and cable, by the end of the year, taking total homes to around 4.7 million.

The OFT started its latest inquiry in December, just after BSkyB clinched a pounds 125m five-year deal to show Endsleigh League football.

Cable rivals sparked the review, which will focus on BSkyB's price-setting, its monopoly over "pay per view" signal coding technology and exclusive contracts to screen top sports events.