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BSkyB mum on reported debt offer

LONDON — British Sky Broadcasting declined to comment on talk it is looking to raise T450 million to T500 million ($ 300 million-$ 333 million) in outside loans to repay some of the money it owes shareholders, but sources close to the company said there were plans afoot.

“We haven’t got anything to say,” said chief financial officer Richard Brooke.

Sources said debt-raising plans in the works were at a very early stage. So far bankers seemed receptive, “but no one’s pressed the go button yet,” said one source.

BSkyB expects to report first-half results Feb. 3 and may reveal further details then.

The talk helped shares in Granada Group, owner of 13.5% of BSkyB, climb 12 pence to 581 pence ($ 3.87). Pearson Plc, a 17.5% shareholder, rose 6 pence to 670 pence ($ 4.47).

Beholden to shareholders

All BSkyB’s debt of around T1.3 billion ($ 870 million) is owed to shareholders. It made its first payout to owners last month, handing over a total of T50 million ($ 33.3 million) to Pearson, Granada, Chargeurs S.A. and 50 % shareholder News Corp.

Brooke said at that time it expected to make another similar payout at the end of the current financial year in June.

Tidying up

Analysts say replacing some of the shareholder debt with outside loans would tidy up the satellite broadcaster’s balance sheet now that it’s no longer losing money.

BSkyB’s operating profit was running at T3 million ($ 2 billion) a week at the end of November.

The London Evening Standard newspaper, which said the debt raising would go ahead if the company could win favorable terms from the banks, said BSkyB is expected to report that operating profit has reached T4 million ($ 2.67 million) a week.

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