H1 Profits BSkyB-High as Murdoch Junior Joins Board

18 February 2003

The Murdoch dynasty has increased by 100% its representation on the board of BSkyB despite holding only 36.3% of the company’s shares - and in defiance of opposition from fifteen per cent of voting shareholders who have protested against the dearth of genuinely independent directors.

In a move unexpected outside the inner sanctums of News Corporation, chairman Rupert Murdoch has appointed his younger son James (30) as a non-executive director of the UK satellite broadcaster. The move is certain to anger the group of dissident shareholders who voted against the re-election of five non-executives at last year's annual general meeting.

Murdoch minimus, already a director of parent NewsCorp and boss of dad’s Asian pay TV service Star TV, replaces another Murdoch nominee, Leslie Hinton, executive chairman of News International which runs the clan’s UK newspaper empire. Martin Pompadur, head of NewsCorp's European operations, has also departed the BSkyB board.

Other new non-executive appointments announced this weekend include Chase Carey, a non-executive director at News Corporation; and Lord Wilson of Ditton, former head of the UK civil service.

But despite accusations of nepotism, eight of the fifteen-strong BSkyB board are now independent non-executive directors – in line with the recommendations of the recent Higgs report on corporate governance, which advocates that the boards of publicly quoted companies comprise at least 50% non-executive members.

Separately, BSkyB reported first-half profits before tax and goodwill of £80 million ($128.87m; €119.74m) with total revenues increased by 15% to £1.5bn. The result boosted shares up by almost 4% in early trading to stand at £5.99 midday Monday.

Ad revenues increased 13% to £133m, a significant increase year-on-year and prompting Sky to proclaim its confidence that with most of the ad haggling for 2003 behind it, double-digit ad revenue growth for the full year is in prospect.

Digital subscribers rose by 244,000 (versus 214,000 in previous quarter) in the three months ended December 31, bringing the total to 6.6m, while churn at 9.4%, fell to its lowest level since the launch of Sky Digital in October 1998.

EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortization) for the period increased by 82% from £111m to £203m; operating profit before goodwill adjustments increased by 126% to £158m – the highest H1 operating profit since the commencement of digital services.

Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk and BrandRepublic; additional content by WARC staff