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Last Updated: Wednesday, 11 February, 2004, 09:17 GMT
Shareholder boost as BSkyB soars
Sky viewing card
BSkyB says it now has 7.2 million subscribers
Satellite broadcaster BSkyB has restored its dividend after a gap of more than five years.

The news came as the UK pay-TV giant unveiled an 84% jump in half-year operating profits to 283m ($529.5m).

BSkyB had suspended its dividend for several years while it rolled out its digital TV service.

The announcement of an interim payout of 2.75p per share is expected to boost new chief executive James Murdoch's attempt to win over shareholders.

'Good momentum'

Mr Murdoch, the son of News Corporation boss Rupert Murdoch, took over as chief executive at BSkyB last year, despite the objections of some shareholders concerned about the company's independence.

News Corporation owns more than a third of BSkyB.

BSkyB's subscriber numbers reached 7.2 million during the six months to December, in line with forecasts.

Mr Murdoch said: "These results show a business that continues to improve. We enter our second half with good momentum, robust financial health and a full programme of work."

'Strong cash flow'

BSkyB has grown to become Britain's dominant pay-TV broadcaster on the back of exclusive rights to the Premiership football competition.

"There's no doubt that the company is starting to generate some strong cash flow, and many investors have wanted this returned in the form of dividends," said BWD Rensburg fund manager Colin Morton.

BSkyB said a High Court ruling in December, which eliminated a deficit in its reserves after heavy investment in its Sky Digital platform, had paved the way for an interim dividend.

The BBC's Marcia Hughes
"Resumption of the BSkyB dividend comes at a time when the share price has been rising"

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