UK satellite operator BSkyB on Wednesday posted a sharp rise in profits as it confirmed the resumption of dividend payments.

The television giant, controlled by News Corporation, reported net earnings of £130 million ($243m; €192m) for the last six months of 2003, up from £12m a year earlier. Operating profits surged 84% to £283m, while revenues climbed 17% to £1.77 billion.

Chief executive James Murdoch -- younger son of Rupert, the firm's chairman -- announced a payout of £0.0275 per share. Dividends were suspended over five years ago as BSkyB poured its cash into digital broadcasting.

The resumption of payments should go some way to appeasing shareholders who opposed the appointment of the chairman's son as ceo late last year [WAMN: 04-Nov-03].

BSkyB also announced that it gained 193,000 new customers in the final six months of 2003, further cementing the group's dominance of Britain's pay-TV market. As of year-end, Sky's total customer base numbered 7.2m.

"These results show a business that continues to improve," declared Murdoch junior. "We enter our second half with good momentum, robust financial health and a full programme of work."

Data sourced from: multiple sources; additional content by WARC staff