James Murdoch pledges News Corp long-term commitment to BSkyB
Ahead of British Sky Broadcasting’s 23 Annual General Meeting, chairman of the company James Murdoch, has pledged the continued commitment of News Corporation to the broadcaster following its failed takeover earlier this year. In his pre-meeting speech, Murdoch thanked Allan Leighton and David Evans who would step down from the board, with new non-executive directors Martin Gilbert, Chief Executive of Aberdeen Asset Management plc, and Matthieu Pigasse, CEO of Lazard France, set to join. He also lauded the performance of the company, which broke its long-term target of 10 million customers last year. “This was a significant achievement. But more important than any single target is the way that our business has been transformed through a constant appetite for change and a strong culture of continuous improvement,” continued Murdoch who added that the company had added over 10,000 subscription products a day, reaching a total of over 25 million customers. “Combined with a continued focus on efficiency, this level of customer demand has translated into good financial results. “Once again, we've seen double-digit growth across the board, with group revenue up 16% to £6.6 billion and adjusted operating profit up 23% to £1.1 billion. “This performance has allowed us to increase returns to shareholders by proposing a 20% increase in the full year dividend and a £750 million share buy-back programme, which shareholders will be asked to approve today,” he continued. “The Board and the management have significant confidence in the opportunity ahead, but we must not be complacent. As we have entered newer, larger segments, like residential communications or original production, we face new and important competition. And our success in creating and retailing incredible television, is in itself a magnet to new entrants, small and large. “Recent developments in online distribution of content, a field that Sky has been very active in, only highlight the shifting nature of the terrain on which we stand. It is our challenge, as your Board, to help the company continue to define its own success and to set the pace for the market. It is a credit to the business, to the leadership, and to you, the shareholders, that the company has sustained its appetite for change, and for challenge. We believe it will continue to serve us well as we invest and grow in the future. “Our goal at Sky is to build a successful and sustainable business for the long-term. We recognise that our ability to do so depends on our relationships with millions of families. As we look to deepen and strengthen these relationships, we recognise the importance of making a positive contribution to UK and Irish life.” Murdoch concluded by briefly mentioning the attempted takeover of BSkyB by News Corporation, of which he is an executive director, which ultimately failed following the phone hacking scandal hitting News International. “News Corporation stated that it remains a committed, long-term shareholder in Sky, proud of the success that the Company has achieved over many years, and of News Corporation's contribution to it. I would simply reiterate that commitment today,” he promised. Protests are reported to have been made outside of the AGM calling for Murdoch to resign from his role in the wake of the phone hacking scandal.