BSkyB posts modest rise as BT challenge looms

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SATELLITE broadcaster BSkyB faces a rising threat from BT in the television market as it unveils third-quarter results on Thursday.

The figures come ahead of the launch this summer of the rival company’s sports channel, which has won the right to screen 38 Premier League games a season.

The update covers the three months to 31 March, with ­analysts at Investec expecting only a modest boost of about 15,000 in pay TV numbers over the traditionally slow post-Christmas period.

Better figures were expected for online service Now TV – launched last year to compete with the likes of Netflix and Lovefilm – as well as BSkyB’s broadband offering.

The company reported an 8 per cent jump in profits to £647 million in the six months to 31 December after it gained 80,000 customers.

Figures were boosted by ­users signing up for new products such as on-demand downloads and Sky Go ­mobile services, as well as millions of viewers attracted to the first season of the Sky Sports Formula One channel.

Ahead of the latest results, observers pointed to the looming challenge from BT. Investec expressed scepticism over the scale of the threat – though warning a low-cost BT wholesale offer to pubs and clubs could hit Sky’s margins.

Analysts Paul Richards and Gareth Davies, of Numis, said Sky’s offering was “market leading” and that rival packages offered by BT as well as Talk Talk were mainly attractive for their broadband customers who have Freeview.

Numis predicted pre-tax profits for BSkyB of £300m for the quarter.

Half-year figures from online retailer ASOS are expected to show a further double-digit hike in profits on Tuesday after the group notched up yet more impressive sales growth.

ASOS, which stands for “As Seen On Screen”, said UK sales rose 28 per cent in the three months to 28 February, with global sales up 37 per cent to £186.5m.

In a sign of its increasing might in the retail sector, it also recently secured a place in the top ten of the Interbrand UK retail survey, joining the likes of Marks & Spencer, Next and Tesco.

The fashion website, which has six million customers, is expected to report a 16 per cent rise in first-half profits to around £25m after banishing fears that its home market was stagnating.

Its move to refocus marketing efforts on its core twentysomething customer base and to deliver more price cuts helped boost UK sales, although it admitted recently this tactic had affected ­margins.

Its international arm, which has been a major driver of growth in recent years, has also performed well with sales 45 per cent higher at £110.9m in the second quarter, driven by improvements in the United States and Europe. It therefore came as a blow to investors when the group announced the departure of international director Jon Kamaluddin after nine years with ASOS.

Seen as one of the key architects of its success, he is set to leave by December in what will mark the second high-profile departure following product director Robert Bready’s decision to step down. But it secured a coup in hiring former Marks & Spencer clothing supremo Kate Bostock to the team.