Yellow card for BSkyB

Briton gov't refuses soccer club takeover

LONDON — Satcaster BSkyB’s $1 billion takeover of the Manchester United soccer club reportedly has not been cleared by the U.K.’s Monopolies and Mergers Commission — the exact opposite of what emerged in the British media last weekend.

The Telegraph newspaper on Wednesday cited sources close to the Department of Trade and Industry as saying the MMC has in fact come out against the controversial deal.

This news, contrary to another publication’s report, prompted a drop in the share prices of BSkyB and United. The satcaster closed down 14¢ to $8.77, and United took a bigger hit, closing at $3.55, down 34¢.

The MMC, the Telegraph said, concluded that if BSkyB owns United, it will have an unfair advantage in negotiating broadcasting rights for the English Premier League, in which United is the most important team, and the rights to which are held by BSkyB.

As well, any provisions taken to eradicate the problem of BSkyB sitting at both sides of the negotiating table would be unenforceable in practice.

The final decision is still up to Trade and Industry Secretary Stephen Byers.