Sky set to see shareholders

David Hellier
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NICHOLAS Ferguson, the senior independent director of BSkyB, which is facing an outright bid from its largest shareholder News Corporation, has intimated he wants to see some of the larger shareholders in the group to listen to their views about the bid price.

Ferguson was travelling yesterday on unrelated business but he will no doubt have read comments from leading shareholders such as hedge fund manager Crispin Odey demanding at least 800p per share from News Corp for the 61 per cent of the group it doesn’t already own.

Ferguson is desperate to show that the non-executive directors at Sky are independent and are protectors of the minority shareholders’ interests. His public relations case is being run for him by Finsbury, while News Corp is currently conducting its own campaign.

News Corp has made an indicative approach at 700p a share, which has been rejected by Ferguson and the other independent directors who have described it as undervaluing Sky significantly.

“Discussions on price have run their course for now,” said one source.

Yesterday Panmure Gordon put out a research note saying that an offer of 800p a share was achievable.

Any bid, which would value the satellite broadcaster’s equity at around £12bn, could be subject to lengthy regulatory delays but so far UK politicians have made conciliatory noises.

Culture secretary Jeremy Hunt has said: “It does seem to me that News Corp do control Sky already so it isn’t clear to me that in terms of media plurality there is any substantive change.”

Analysts at Barclays Capital welcomed news that a bid from News Corp would not require a further issue of stock. News is funding the deal with a $4bn (£2.7bn) loan and a further $8bn from its own resources.