Murdoch says £7bn flotation of Sky Global remains on track

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The Independent Online

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of BSkyB, yesterday said that the flotation of Sky Global, News Corp's global network of satellite broadcasting assets, remained on track for an estimated $10bn (£6.9bn) initial public offering in December or January.

Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of BSkyB, yesterday said that the flotation of Sky Global, News Corp's global network of satellite broadcasting assets, remained on track for an estimated $10bn (£6.9bn) initial public offering in December or January.

Mr Murdoch said: "[The IPO] will either happen in the last month of the year or the first month of next year." however, he stressed the need for suitable market conditions and added that "there's a lot of moving parts".

Speaking to reporters after BSkyB's annual shareholders' meeting, Mr Murdoch did not comment on reported negotiations with Bill Gates about Microsoft paying $1bn for a 3.5 per cent interest in Sky Global.

Sources said, however, that Mr Murdoch's initial mistrust of Microsoft's strategic aim to dominate the market for set-top box television systems has given way to a pragmatic realisation of the need to woo powerful partners.

The renewed downturn in technology and media stocks in recent weeks has raised questions about whether the Sky Global float, which was announced in August, could proceed in the coming months.

Sky Global, which includes News Corp's 38 per cent stake in BSkyB, Asia's Star TV and other satellite assets, has been billed as the biggest media company IPO in history. Analysts believe that News Corp will issue between 15 and 30 per cent of Sky Global's equity, valuing the company at about $35bn.

The annual meeting coincided with BSkyB reporting a nine-fold widening in pre-tax losses to £123.6m for the three months ended 30 September from the period a year earlier. Turnover, including BSkyB's share of joint ventures' sales, jumped 33 per cent to £564m.

BSkyB said it had 4.95 million digital satellite subscribers at the start of this month. The ballooning losses reflected a 33 per cent rise in operating expenses to £484.1m, reflecting higher costs for programming and subsidising the sign-up of 210,000 direct-to-home digital satellite subscribers in the quarter.

Mr Murdoch's 31-year-old wife Wendi Deng attended the meeting in a bright purple trouser suit. She left under the guidance of Lord Bell, Mr Murdoch's long-time public relations adviser, who was a key strategist to Margaret Thatcher.

BSkyB stock continued its recent recovery, adding 46p to 1,050p. Last month the stock slid to 862p after falling from 2,158p in March.

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