Looming price war hits broadcasters

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Telecoms group BT turned up the heat on rival BSkyB yesterday after unveiling free Premier League football for broadband customers in a move that sent the satellite broadcaster’s shares slumping into the red.

BT’s aggressive pricing, detailed at the launch of its new sports channels, spooked investors in Sky, whose shares closed 6 per cent or 53p lower at 809p amid fears of a major threat to its long-running dominance.

Patrick Yau, media analyst at Peel Hunt, said: “People are beginning to see BT as a bit more of a threat than it was. I suspect Sky will look at pricing competitively, but they will also point to the fact you get a lot more with a Sky Sports package.”

BT joined its rival on the fallers board, down 6.6p to 275.7p, amid concerns about the cost of its investment. The apparent shift to more aggressive tactics meant fellow broadband player TalkTalk plunged 12 per cent or 30.9p to 221.6p in the FTSE 250.

The FTSE 100 index built further on recent highs as it edged 9.26 points ahead to 6,592.74 – a level not seen since the beginning of November 2007. Credit checking firm Experian set the pace after full-year profits met expectations and it announced a 9 per cent rise in dividend and further share repurchases. Shares were up 75p to 1,247p.

Lloyds Banking Group was also on the risers’ board with shares up 3.5 per cent at 58.06p as investors approved of its latest cost-saving measures.

Supermarket chain Morrisons was among the fallers after new figures added to City frustrations over its recent performance. The stock slipped 3 per cent or 8p to 288.4p as the firm also kept investors waiting for an anticipated internet distribution deal with Ocado. Ocado shares were 1.4p lower at 208.6p as doubts mounted over the talks.

NEW YORK: US stocks ended lower last night, breaking a five-day string of record closing highs for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index as the market’s recent momentum faltered and Apple shares weighed.

The Dow Jones industrial average dropped 22.50 points, or 0.15 per cent, to end at 15,082.62 while the broader S&P 500 lost 6.02 points, or 0.37 per cent, to finish at 1,626.67. The Nasdaq Composite Index fell 4.10 points, or 0.12 per cent, to close at 3,409.17.