Investment in joint ventures and heavy subscriber acquisition costs have had a negative impact on UK satellite broadcaster BSkyB's bottom line, resulting in a pre-tax loss of £61.5m ($99.2m) for the six months to the end of 1999 compared to a profit of £53.2m ($85.8m) for the same period the previous year.

However the satellite broadcaster said it has notched up 2.3 million digital subscribers to date and is confident it will reach the 5 million mark by the end of the year. At the end of 1999 BSkyB had 2.07 million digital subscribers and 1.9 million analogue subscribers for a total subscriber base of 3.97 million.

BSkyB, which is 40%-owned by Rupert Murdoch's News International, also reported that it plans to pump £250m ($403m) into new media activities under its banner Sky New Media Ventures, which operates its and web-sites. The company has already invested in UK e-commerce player Streets Online and interactive television developer Static. In addition the company has agreed a joint venture with UK telecom Kingston Communications and is discussing mobile phone deals with BT Cellnet.

Meanwhile, BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball said the satellite operator had no plans for talks with French group Vivendi about a possible merger with Canal Plus. 'It would depend on what exactly the talks involved but no talks are planned at present. We have nothing on the block with any European players at the moment,' said Ball.