Margareta Pagano: The Murdoch cloud that hangs over News Corp

In the US they call it the "Murdoch discount".

This is the amount by which US analysts reckon shares in News Corporation are depressed because of the controlling stake held by the Murdoch family; about 40 per cent of the B voting shares, although only 13 per cent of the share capital. Analysts never like powerful shareholders, mainly because their impact can be so profound. And in Rupert Murdoch's case it's because they can't predict what a media tycoon with megalomaniacal tendencies will do next.

In recent years, Wall Street has watched as he has bought some pretty strange and very expensive businesses: he paid $500m for Myspace and sold it for $35m and then earlier this year paid $615m for his daughter Elisabeth's Shine production company. But the purchase they really didn't like was of Dow Jones, the Wall Street Journal newspaper group, for which he paid $5.7bn and has written off $2.8bn.

What they like even less, though, is UK newspapers which lose money and bring down the wrath of the public over phone hacking as well as bribing police officers. The accounts of News International are difficult to unravel but some analysts estimate it makes about £60m profit – including the now closed News of the World. Without the newspaper, the rest of the NI stable – The Sun, The Times and The Sunday Times – are likely to break-even at best. In the US, investors reckon the shares – down to $16 on Friday – would return to the $20 range if the newspaper group were sold and there were changes to corporate governance, so would make an interesting buy for smart investors.

As my colleague, Stephen Foley, reports from New York, all eyes are on October's annual meeting when investors will get a chance to air their views. So far they've been happy because News Corp is an excellent company with fabulous cash flow. But the Murdoch cloud is why its shares have underperformed for the past decade, on a price earnings multiple of around 14 against the sector's 18 times.

That's why Alex DeGroote, a media analyst at Panmure Gordon, bets that News Corp will eventually sell the UK newspapers, despite Murdoch's insistence on Friday that this is tosh. Right now he may be right, but the long-term impact of this scandal may force his hand to show the big US investors he's cleaning up. News Corp may even sell its 40 per cent stake in BSkyB over the next year or so, either because it has to if the Murdochs fail the fit and proper test, or because the top guns reckon it would be easier to have another pop at bidding for the broadcaster after a decent absence.

It's impossible to know what strategy News Corp may take, or who will be running the giant media group in even six months. What is sure is that BSkyB's share price has fallen to Earth after nearly 18 months of bid fever, down to 706p on Friday, and is likely to stay down on Earth for some time. Analysts are not even attempting to put a new target price on the shares until they see the results from the broadcaster in a couple of weeks.

They will be good – showing operating profits of around £1bn. But the litmus test is going to be what BSkyB says about the consumer market and how demand for its sky-high priced Sky packages are holding up during such tough times. The truth is that no one quite knows what happens next – not even Murdoch.

Top Gear: After a poor spring Superdry is back on the road

I'm not sure what the polite form of "Told you so" is, but that's how I felt watching shares in SuperGroup jump last week after the fashion retailer reported a fantastic trading period.

Back in May, the shares tanked after the owner of Superdry and Cult admitted sales had suffered as it hadn't got enough espadrilles on shelves during the unseasonal heatwave. After a 20 per cent fall, shares more than halved as investors sold on fears that Julian Dunkerton's group had run out of steam.

As I wrote then, the fears were overdone and it was a good chance to buy. So it has proved – SuperGroup's shares have shot back up to 1,084p after profits of up to £47.3m. This was a 110 per cent rise, with sales up by 71 per cent. Dunkerton says first quarter sales are excellent, and he plans another 20 UK stores this year, plus the new Regent Street flagship store. And the shares now? Still worth a punt.

If my fairy godmother won't give me solar panels, the Government should

It's at times like this that I wish for a fairy godmother. One who would magically wave her wand so that solar panels would appear on our south-facing roof to heat the water and then, if its not asking too much, for heat pumps to be buried into the garden to generate electricity.

Just think how wonderful it would feel to be self-sufficient – no more running out of oil two days before Christmas in the worst ever winter on record because we forgot to check the oil tank gauge, and no more tears when opening the demands over another huge price hike to the electricity standing order.

It's this sweet dream which keeps me mugging up on everything I can find out about solar panels, working out whether it's best to have only those for hot water or the photovoltaic ones which power electricity. Then there's the working out how much money one can save; how many kWp you need for the home (between 1.5kWp and 3.5kWp I've established) and then how much can be sold back to the grid through the feed-in tariffs. And that's when my eyes start to glaze; it's not only the complexity but the outlay – the £10,000 for panels and £11,000 or so for heat pumps.

But with the news that energy prices will be going up again this year – ostensibly because companies need to invest more – then it's time for all of us to forget the fairy godmothers and get serious about alternatives.

Solar and other technologies are not yet advanced enough to power our big users of energy – hospitals, offices, factories et al – but they are efficient enough homes. The Government's feed-in tariff is a start but there is so much more that can be done to help the "little people" to light up their homes; it could be through grants or long-term loans with the new green bank, but for a supposedly green government it's time to get real.

There are other benefits: people will be more careful of their fuel use, insulation will improve and everyone gets thinner; doctors are now discovering that too much central heating is a cause of much of today's obesity. It could cut the NHS budget, too.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisor

£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....

Recruitment Genius: Compliance Manager

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...

SThree: Talent Acquisition Consultant

£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most