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Friday, 8 February, 2002, 17:08 GMT
BSkyB profits and subscribers up
Satellite dish
BSkyB beams TV programmes via satellite dish
The UK's biggest pay TV operation has unveiled higher operating profits and announced a further jump in subscriber numbers.

The company said operating profits before one-off costs for the six months to December rose to 70m from 50m one year earlier, while subscriber numbers rose by 218,000 during the final three months of 2001 to 5.7m.

The company added that average annual revenue per subscriber rose by 11% during the last three months of 2001 to 331.

"The last six months have seen another strong operating performance," said BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball.

Kirch-related loss

The broadcaster also said it was writing down the value of its 22% stake in the German subscriber television service KirchPayTV.

That one-off 985m charge dragged the company deep into the red, with final pre-tax losses coming in at 1.2bn.

The British satellite broadcaster's decision to write down the value of its Kirch holding reflects its unease over the loss-making German channel's prospects.

Investors welcomed the write-down as a sign that BSkyB will stop putting money into KirchPayTV, and BSkyB shares closed 24p higher at 726p.

BSkyB will be legally entitled to force Kirch's debt-laden parent company to buy back its stake in the Germany pay TV service for 1.3bn euros in October if the company has not been floated on the stock market by then.

"We remain focused on protecting our rights and securing the full value from our put option," Mr Ball said.

BSkyB, 36% owned by Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation, was last year widely rumoured to be planning a takeover of KirchGruppe, the heavily indebted German media giant which owns most of KirchPayTV.

Competition probe

BSkyB, which broadcasts most of its output by satellite dish, is the largest pay TV service in the UK.

Last year, British competition watchdogs opened an investigation following complaints from rival pay TV companies that BSkyB is abusing its domninant market position.

If found guilty, the broadcaster could face fines of up to 300m.

The BBC's Quentin Sommerville
"The number of people going over to digital is growing fast"
Simon Ellery, Broadcast
"They made a strategic investment in a burgeoning market...unfortunately it has fallen flat on its face"
See also:

18 Nov 01 | Business
BSkyB dishes 'to include ITV'
05 Dec 00 | Business
BSkyB faces competition probe
02 Nov 01 | Business
BSkyB subscriber numbers disappoint
23 Jul 01 | Business
EU investigates BSkyB
17 Dec 01 | Business
BSkyB accused of market abuse
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