Trading updates put focus on Sky and BT’s broadband battle

TELECOMS giants BT and British Sky Broadcasting will lock horns again in the battle for broadband and pay-TV customers when
they update on trading this week.

Gavin Patterson

Quarterly figures from BT on Thursday will be pitted against full-year figures from Sky on Friday, with both firms expected to update on attempts to grow market share in the cut-throat broadband market.

BT recently threw down the gauntlet to Sky when it revealed broadband customers will be able to watch Premier League football for free, after it bought the rights to show 38 top flight games a season.

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BT underlined its ambitions in sport last year when it bid £738m for the three-year package of Premier League football – the first serious attempt to break Sky’s grip on armchair sports fans.

The companies have also waged an increasingly acrimonious war of words over issues ranging from Sky’s refusal to show BT’s sport advertisements, to the prices BT charges rivals to use its network of copper wires.

BT’s results for its first quarter to the end of June are expected to show pre-tax profits dipping to £559m from revised profits of £567m a year earlier, on the back of rising costs including heavy spending on its sport launch, tougher regulation in its wholesale business and pension charges.

The results will be the first since respected boss Ian Livingston revealed he was quitting the former state-owned monopoly in September to join the Government as trade minister.

He will be replaced by Gavin Patterson, current head of the group’s retail arm.

But while news of his departure initially hit BT’s share price, it has since rallied strongly to reach levels not seen seen for more than a decade.