UPDATE, 5:15 AM: James Murdoch has been re-elected as a non-executive director of BSkyB. Murdoch won more support at today’s shareholder meeting in London than he had at the last one when he was still chairman of the pay-TV group. Although some investors opposed his retaining a seat, only 4.98% of proxy voters wanted him out this year compared to 19% last year. One shareholder, alluding to the troubles at News Corp.’s UK newspapers, asked if the name Murdoch is now “toxic,” but chairman Nicholas Ferguson replied there had been no negative impact on company business.
PREVIOUS, 3:19 AM: BSkyB earnings were up 16% in the fiscal first quarter on revenue of £1.715B (+4%) and operating profit of £310M (+5%). The increases came as the pay-TV giant offered new products and added 20,000 net customers to its subscriber base, for a total of about 10.7M subscribers. In response to competition in the UK streaming arena from Netflix and Amazon’s Lovefilm, BSkyB added Now TV during this quarter, a service that allows non-Sky customers to access movies on demand. It also agreed to pay £760M per season for rights to the English Premier League soccer games through 2014 (NBC just acquired rights in the States for a reported $83M per year).
BSkyB is 39% owned by News Corp. and an annual general meeting this morning in London will be attended by James Murdoch who stepped down as chairman in April. Activist investor groups are expected to call for his ouster as a non-executive director at the meeting, but he is likely to remain. FairPensions, a charity that promotes responsible investment by fund managers, recently wrote on its website, “We think it’s time for him to go… Murdoch has resigned as executive chairman of News International. He’s stepped down from the boards of GlaxoSmithKline and Sotheby’s. Why, then, is he still on the board of one of Britain’s most high profile companies?” Another group, the PIRC shareholder advisory has also urged investors to vote against Murdoch’s re-election and that of other directors linked to News Corp. Both groups cite UK regulator Ofcom’s criticism of Murdoch and his handling of the phone hacking scandal at News Corp.’s UK newspapers. However, PIRC does not believe the exec will be voted out and rather that he will be re-elected “with a higher level of support than last year” because some large shareholders “have been pacified by Murdoch giving up the position of chair” and “others may have been convinced by the board that Murdoch is important to the company’s future.”