Pay TV giant Sky has notched up a 10% hike in earnings for the first nine months of its year despite a “challenging” consumer market as it remains at the centre of a bidding battle.
The group – which is being fought over by Rupert Murdoch’s 21st Century Fox and US media group Comcast – said it added another 38,000 new customers in its third quarter, taking the total households reached by its services to 22.9 million.
It reported group underlying earnings of £1.7 billion for the nine months to March 31, up from £1.5 billion a year earlier.
A strong performance in the UK and Ireland, where earnings lifted 10% to £1.4 billion, and Italy offset an 18% plunge in earnings in Germany and Austria to £68 million.
Group chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “Against the backdrop of a challenging consumer environment, this performance reflects the continual improvement in our broad set of products and services.”
He added: “Whatever happens to the company’s ownership, we all feel that Sky is in a strong position today and that we are well placed.”
Sky agreed to Fox’s £11.7 billion deal to take full control of the group in 2016, but since then Walt Disney has agreed to snap up a raft of Fox assets including the Sky 39% stake and the UK competition watchdog has raised a host of concerns over the Fox acquisition.
Last week, Britain’s Takeover Panel also ruled that Disney must bid for the whole of Sky even if Rupert Murdoch’s offer is blocked.
Meanwhile, US broadcaster Comcast has mounted its own £22.1 billion takeover approach for Sky.
Mr Darroch said Sky had been helping Comcast as it goes through the regulatory processes and would talk in “more detail” with the bidder should a firm offer come through.
“The business has been through a period of some change and I’m determined to… keep it in as good a shape as I can,” he said.
Its latest trading update showed like-for-like revenue for the nine months to March 31 rose 5% to £10.1 billion, with turnover up 4% in the UK and Ireland.
In the UK and Ireland, it has 13 million retail customers, up from 12.9 million at the end of last year.