Shares in BSkyB remained highly volatile today after two of its key shareholders yesterday sold stakes.
At 14:00 BST the shares were trading at £12.07, having closed 6% down at £12.85 overnight. In earlier trading today they had dipped as low as £11.48.
The shares were hit when investment bank Lehman Bros sold 20 million shares at a price of £12.50 on behalf of Kirch. Kirch had a total of 78 million shares granted when BSkyB took an equity interest in the new KirchPayTV unit earlier this year. Kirch, which now holds only 3.2% of BSkyB, is understood to want the cash to service its debts and to finance digital TV expansion.
The reasoning was similar at Vivendi, which yesterday also said it would sell 3% of BSkyB and raise roughly $1bn. The sale reduces Vivendi's holding from 24.7%.The cash would go towards paying for a third generation mobile telephone licence in France. The French government yesterday said that it would charge at least $4.7bn (FFr32.5bn) for each of the four licences it is proposing to auction off. Vivendi chairman Jean-Marie Messier said that the reserve price was exorbitant and amounted to a new tax.
Messier said that the share sale was intended to demonstrate that Vivendi is capable of bidding for a licence without putting the group at risk. But the smaller stake may reduce his leverage in discussions with Rupert Murdoch over whether to join Platco (Screendaily, Jun 6).
He categorically ruled out further share sales. And it appeared to prove the point by issuing Euros1.2bn of convertible bonds which are backed by BSkyB shares.