BSkyB confirms talks to buy Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland

BSkyB has confirmed it is looking at a takeover of Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia to create a multi billion pound pay-TV giant

The move to create a “Sky Europe” has long been rumoured as BSkyB’s top shareholder, Rupert Murdoch, would like to inject the British firm’s market-leading expertise into his less-successful Sky operations in Germany and Italy.

BSkyB said: “At the right value, this combination would have the potential to create a world-class multinational pay-TV group.”

But the FTSE 100 firm added that talks have “not progressed beyond a preliminary stage and no agreement has been reached on terms, value or transaction structure”.

Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox holds 39 per cent of BSkyB, about 57 per cent of Sky Deutschland and 100 per cent of Sky Italia.

BSkyB is valued £14 billion. Sky Deutschland, which owns the TV rights to Germany’s Bundesliga, is worth €6 billion (£4.88 billion) and Sky Italia could be worth €4-5 billion, according to Bloomberg.

However, shares in the British firm tumbled 2 per cent in early London trading as the City fretted a deal could be fraught with problems.

Analysts fear BSkyB could have to pay a premium to take control of Sky Deutschland. Shares in the German company soared more than 6 per cent today — despite those close to BSkyB insisting a prerequisite for the deal is that Sky Deutschland’s share price remains “undisturbed”.

Some City observers worry BSkyB’s growth and profit margins could be dragged down by expanding in Europe and that a takeover could distract BSkyB’s management.

However, UBS said a takeover could be “strategically positive” as the group would have operations in five countries — Britain, Ireland, Germany, Austria and Italy — and could save £150 million a year in costs.

British technology such as its revamped Sky+ internet-connected TV platform and advertising-targeting service AdSmart could be exported. UBS expects no major regulatory hurdles.

Murdoch tried to take full control of BSkyB in 2010, when it was widely thought he wanted to create a Sky Europe, but he aborted plans because of the phone-hacking scandal.

This new move to keep BSkyB as a standalone company looks like a way to push through the strategy by other means.

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