BSkyB posts 24% rise in profits
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB heaped further pressure on News Corporation's plans to take full control of the company after it said it continued to attract more customers to its TV and broadband services.
Underlying profits at Sky increased 24% to £790 million in the nine months to March 31 as new services such as the recently-launched Sky Atlantic channel helped customer numbers grow to 10.1 million.
The latest strong trading performance is likely to place more pressure on Rupert Murdoch's News Corp to offer more money as it tries to buy the 61% of the company it does not already own.
Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt is expected to make a decision on the bid within days after News Corp offered to allow Sky News to be run as a separate company to satisfy concerns over media plurality.
Sky chief executive Jeremy Darroch described the third quarter results as "another good performance in what has clearly been a tough consumer environment".
Revenues grew 14% to £4.8 billion as Sky encouraged more customers to sign up to a package of TV, telephone and broadband services. Some 26% of its customers now sign up to all three products, which represents a 40% increase on a year ago.
This helped the average amount paid per customer to increase 8% to £544 per year.
Net customer numbers increased by 51,000 in the first three months of 2011 as Sky added to its TV offering with the launch of the Sky Atlantic channel featuring Boardwalk Empire.
Sky also reported that the number of customers watching its high definition products increased nearly 50% over the past year to 3.7 million.
Another strong quarter for Sky is expected to add pressure on News Corp to pay more to buy the company. Last year its initial offer of 700p per share, equating to a total price of £7.8 billion, was dismissed by the board as too low.