News Ltd sells 44 percent stake in Sky TV – UPDATED

Update 5 March: News Limited has sold off its 44 percent stake in Sky TV, according to an announcement made by Sky to the New Zealand Stock Exchange this morning. Sky has lifted the trading halt on its shares.

Original Story: Murdoch-owned News Limited has announced it is selling its 44 percent stake in New Zealand’s Sky TV.

News Limited has appointed Deutsche Bank to underwrite the sale, which will be managed in partnership with Craigs Investment Partners. At current price values, News Limited’s 170 million shares is worth around $878 million.

News Limited has requested that Sky seeks a trading halt for up to two days, which Sky has obtained.

Sky enjoys a strong monopoly in New Zealand, which has allowed it to secure favourable content distribution deals in the country. News Corporation, of which News Limited is a subsidiary and the owner of such properties as Fox News and The Wall Street Journal, says the sale is unlikely to affect Sky’s access to content in the future.

“We and SKY have always enjoyed an excellent, arms-length working relationship and we expect this to continue unaffected by the sale. In particular, we do not anticipate any change to current arrangements regarding access to content and collaboration on technology,” says News Corp president Chase Carey.

Sky TV chief executive John Fellet says he’s unable to talk about today’s announcement until after the sale does or does not occur. 

Last month Sky posted a half-year profit of $68.2 million, up by nine percent from the previous year. Sky’s subscriber numbers remain steady at just under 850,000, but the number of MySky subscribers who pay a premium for the product rose by 28 percent to 424,000. 

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