Market Report: Penalty time again for BT and BSkyB


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The Independent Online

With Euro 2012 in full flow, football and that eye-watering, £3bn Premier League TV rights deal was still high on traders' minds.

BT and BSkyB fell for a second day in a row as worries persisted that the two media giants have overpaid as they pushed up the value of the deal by almost 70 per cent.

Shares in both companies fluctuated markedly as analysts were split about the impact on each company.

Sky fell 1.4 per cent or 9.5p to 661.5p – after dropping 3.5 per cent on Thursday. The pay-TV giant, which is 39 per cent owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, has maintained its own dominant position in TV football but has had to pay £2.3bn for its 116 games a season over three years – an extra £660m – after BT's surprise entry into the market.

Sky Sports doesn't disclose subscriber numbers but some analysts reckon they have around 5 million.

A back-of-the-envelope calculation suggests the footie deal might cost Sky an extra £3.50 a month per subscriber, although the pay-TV giant says it plans to absorb a good deal of any costs through efficiencies.

The bigger questions revolve around BT whose shares also fell 3.5 per cent on Thursday, after chief executive Ian Livingston paid £738m for 38 games a season. Traders initially sent the telecoms giant's shares tumbling again yesterday but they eased, to close down only 0.5p at 201.2p

"BT will inevitably rack up very large losses for strategic benefits that are not entirely obvious at the start," warned Enders Analysis in a note.

The fear is that while BT has its own pay-TV service, it has no track record in producing its own live programming. The telecoms firm promises a new, dedicated sports channel, but would appear to have little other sports coverage to fill the airtime yet.

Broker Panmure Gordon found a silver lining in the record-breaking TV rights auction, saying it showed that must-watch content was becoming valuable. Analyst Alex de Groote reckoned ITV, which has a big production arm making shows such as I'm A Celebrity and drama Mr Selfridge, should benefit. The broadcaster's shares rose by 1.8 per cent or 1.3p to 73.1p.

The day's best performer on the FTSE 100 was Royal Bank of Scotland, surging almost 8 per cent, or 18.2p, to 247.6p, after the latest emergency liquidity measures from the Bank of England and the Treasury.

All four of the big, UK-listed, high street banks got a fillip, with Barclays up 8.1p to 200.8p and Lloyds Banking Group rising 1.6p to 31.3p. HSBC nudged up 0.9p at 546.4p.

However, the FTSE 100 index ended up just 11.76 points at 5478.81, as fears about the outcome of this weekend's Greek elections continued to cast a shadow.

Worst performer on the Footsie was Aggreko, which dived by 94p, or 4.3 per cent, to 2066p, after the world's biggest temporary power provider reported slowing growth in the second quarter. The outlook was downbeat too, as the worsening, macro-economic climate offsets the benefit of its £50m London 2012 Olympics contract in the second half of the year.

"Aggreko is a 'good news stock' and the market tends to expect an upgrade," said analysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Traders welcomed the news midway through the day that Trinity Mirror has parted ways with its chief executive Sly Bailey six months earlier than planned. They take it as a sign that new chairman David Grigson plans to turn around the troubled owner of the Daily Mirror. The shares, which fell at the start of the day, rallied on the 10.30am news of Ms Bailey's exit, surging almost 3 per cent, or 0.75p, to close at 27p – still close to a three-year low.

Among the small-caps, Chime Communications fell by 0.75p to 152p ahead of Monday's crunch vote on the management buyout of PR subsidiary Bell Pottinger by its chairman, Lord Bell.

PR Week reports that Emirates, one of Bell Pottinger's biggest clients for 12 years, has put its account up for review as the management buyout decision looms.

Monday also sees another key vote at telecoms provider Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW), down 0.75 per cent or 0.27p to 35.03p, as shareholders must decide on the £1bn offer from Vodafone. The mobile giant said last night that it won't change its planned scheme of arrangement deal to a contractual takeover offer. CWW's largest shareholder, Orbis, claims the £1bn deal is too low. Vodafone shares slipped 1.25 per cent, or 2.17p, to 173.7p.