Sony cuts sat cash

Media giant drops JSkyB interest to 25%

TOKYO — Sony Corp.’s expected stake in Japanese direct satellite broadcaster JSkyB is going to be at 25%, a drop from the expected 30% to 33% share Sony was to have had in the venture, a local business daily reported Tuesday.

Pressure from one of the primary investors in JSkyB is being cited for the reduction, the Nihon Keizai Shimbun said.

The paper said Softbank Corp., one of the partners in the JSkyB venture with Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp., did not want Sony’s share in the satellite broadcaster to be as large as the original two investors’.

Softbank reportedly pressured Murdoch into decreasing Sony’s share in order to erase the possibility of the three being equal partners.

A Sony spokeswoman said the article was nothing more than “speculation.”

“Sony is definitely considering an investment in JSkyB, but we have not made a decision yet on the percentage of the investment,” Mika Ishida said. A timetable was not announced for when Sony will make public its investment decision.

According to Andrew Haskins, an electronics industry analyst for James Capel Pacific, Sony is all but certain to go ahead with the JSkyB venture. He sees nothing blocking Sony’s plans.

“It would be understandable for Sony to try and get a significant stake, but obviously that is something for the investors to decide,” Haskins said.

JSkyB’s direct satellite broadcasting service is scheduled to go into regular operation with about 150 channels in April 1998.

On Monday, Softbank and News Corp. announced they were abandoning the Asahi National Broadcasting Co. (TV Asahi) shares they acquired in June 1996.

Murdoch and Softbank president Masayoshi Son said at a hastily arranged news conference they will sell their 21.4% stake in the broadcaster to the Asahi Shimbun, a major Japanese newspaper with a circulation of 8.2 million.

The share in TV Asahi was sold for 41.74 billion yen ($345 million), the same amount Softbank and News Corp. originally paid last year.

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