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26-07-2012 08:47:00

BSkyB To Return GBP500 Million To Shareholders As Profit Rises

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By Lilly Vitorovich

LONDON--British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY.LN) said Thursday that it will return another GBP500 million to shareholders via a share buyback as the U.K.'s biggest pay-television provider reported a rise in annual earnings, underpinned by consumer demand for its broadband, telephone and high definition television products.

The latest capital return comes a year after BSkyB said it would return GBP750 million to shareholders

BSkyB--which has 10.6 million customers and competes with Virgin Media Inc. (VMED) and BT Group PLC (BT.LN)--booked a 12% rise in net profit to GBP906 million for the year ended June 30 from GBP810 million a year earlier.

Annual revenue rose 3% to GBP6.79 billion in line with market expectations while average revenue per user rose to GBP548 from GBP538 as existing customers took more of its products.

BSkyB has built its financial success on owning the exclusive U.K. broadcasting rights to live English Premier League soccer matches. Last month it spent GBP2.28 billion ($3.53 billion) to secure the bulk of those rights for another three years, starting from 2013. That was up more than 40% from GBP1.62 billion it paid at the previous rights auction in 2009.

But with new pay TV customer signings slowing down amid the difficult economic environment, the company is also focused on getting existing customers to take-up more of its services, such as high definition TV and broadband.

The company launched an Internet streaming service, Now TV, to protect its movie business against the arrival U.S.-based Internet movie service company Netflix Inc. (NFLX) earlier this year. Netflix has added its video-on-demand offers to those of Amazon.com Inc.'s (AMZN) Lovefilm increasing competition and driving down prices, posing a challenge to BSkyB's premium movie channels.

Virgin Media, BSkyB's main rival in TV and broadband, has raised the bar with the launch of its combined Internet television and broadband on-demand platform powered by U.S. firm TiVo Inc.'s (TIVO) set-top home entertainment box.

Virgin Media on Tuesday reported strong customer demand for TiVo, with around a fifth of its 4.8 million cable customers moving onto TiVo since its launch more than a year ago.

BSkyB counts News Corp. (NWS) as its biggest shareholder with a 39.1% stake. News Corp. also owns Dow Jones & Co., owner of this newswire and The Wall Street Journal.

Operating profit before exceptional items--a key figure tracked by analysts--rose 14% to GBP1.22 billion, slightly ahead of market expectations of GBP1.20 billion.

BSkyB declared a final dividend of 16.2 pence a share, up 11% from a year earlier. That takes its total dividend for the year to 25.4 pence, up 9% from a year earlier.

BSkyB shares closed at 685 pence Wednesday, valuing the company at GBP11.46 billion.

-By Lilly Vitorovich, Dow Jones Newswires; 44-0-207 842 9290; lilly.vitorovich@dowjones.com

Subscribe to WSJ: http://online.wsj.com?mod=djnwires

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

July 26, 2012 02:47 ET (06:47 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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