BSkyB says Murdoch remains chairman as annual profits surge

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James Murdoch remains chairman of British pay-tv giant BSkyB amid a phone-hacking scandal at the group's biggest shareholder News Corp., it said on Friday after unveiling a 23-percent jump in annual profits.

Operating profits hit £1.073 billion ($1.752 billion, 1.226 billion euros) in the 12 months to June, compared with £872 million in the previous financial year, BSkyB said in a results statement. That was in line with market expectations.

"Following the withdrawal of the News Corporation proposal, the board will return to normal processes. James Murdoch remains chairman," BSkyB said in the earnings release.

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. was forced earlier this month to scrap its bid for control of BSkyB in the face of a growing scandal over newspaper phone-hacking at his News of the World tabloid newspaper in Britain.

The crisis had sparked calls for Rupert's son James to resign the chairmanship of BSkyB, but the company's board gave him their unanimous support at a meeting late on Thursday.

The firm meanwhile announced a £750-million share buyback programme and ramped up its shareholder dividend by a fifth to 23.28 pence per share.

BSkyB, which broadcasts live English Premier League football and blockbuster movies, added that it now has 10.3 million household subscribers, a proportion of whom pay monthly fees to access its Internet broadband and telephone services.

"This has been a year of outstanding operational and financial results for Sky," said James Murdoch in Friday's statement.

"It is to the credit of Skys first-class management team that the company has continued to deliver throughout the offer period that ended earlier this month.

He added: "We are pleased to announce both a 20 percent increase in the ordinary dividend and our intention to return £750 million to shareholders through a share buy-back programme."

Faced with intense political and public pressure over the phone-hacking scandal, News Corp. called off its bid for the 61 percent of shares in the satellite broadcaster that it did not already own on July 13.

News Corp. had in June 2010 bid £7.8 billion ($12.5 billion, 8.6 billion euros) for the 60.9 percent of BSkyB it did not already own not own. But BSkyB rejected the 700-pence-per-share offer.

© 2011 AFP

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