BSkyB to return £500m to investors as profits grow

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Satellite broadcaster BSkyB today said it was planning to buy back £500 million of shares from investors as it reported an 8 per cent rise in annual profits.

The group said it had benefited from an “explosion” in on-demand and mobile viewing as customers turn to their smartphones and other devices to watch television on the move, with many taking out more expensive packages as a result.

With the number of customers taking out paid subscriptions rising by more than 3 million to 31.6 million in the year to 30 June, revenues grew 7 per cent to £7.2 billion. That helped underlying pre-tax profits rise to £1.7bn, from £1.6bn a year earlier.

Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “The strength of our financial performance is a result of our successful transition to more broadly-based growth and sustained investment to create a better service and wider range of products for customers.”

Along with proposing an 18 per cent increase in the full-year dividend to 30p a share, Darroch said BSkyB would seek approval at its upcoming annual meeting to launch a £500m share buyback programme.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown, said: “The increase to the dividend and planned share buyback are both supportive and reflective of management confidence in Sky’s prospects.

“However, the spectre of BT’s current strength is looming large.”

Telecoms giant BT yesterday said it had signed up more than half a million customers for its rival sports television service, which is due to launch next month.