Friday, 28 September 2007

Virgin 1 to be launched

The launch of Sir Richard Branson’s first Virgin-branded television channel was celebrated by 200 guests at Sir Richard’s Oxfordshire home. There was a fairground and the inclusion of a flight simulator among the attractions.

Virgin 1, a male-skewed entertainment channel, offering US imports and attention-grabbing factual shows, is Sir Richard’s new step towards the battle with BskyB. The latter company is 39.1% owned by News Corporation, parent company of The Times.

About 40,000 subscribers (see article on the 09/09/07) have left Virgin Media since BSkyB pulled its basic channels, including Sky One and Sky News, from Virgin Media in a row over fees. Sir Richard is still fighting over BSkyB’s 17.9% stake in Britain’s ITV which blocked his £5 billion takeover bid.

Virgin 1, which will launched on Monday, will have a budget of £40 million ($80 million). Sir Richard commented on the feud with Sky that “If you have a gun held to your head and give in the first time around, it is likely you will get a gun to your head a second time. Sometimes you have to draw a line in the sand.” Sir Richard said: “hoped the competition authorities would settle the dispute with BSkyB in his favour. As for ITV, watch this space”, when questioned if a future bid for the broadcaster was a possibility.

Launch highlights include The Riches, an Emmy-nominated US drama starring Eddie Izzard and Minnie Driver, and The Sarah Connor Chronicles, a television spin-off from the Terminator films. The channel will rely on hours of Star Trek and Seinfeld repeats in its opening year. Sir Richard also said that British Airways, his arch rival in the transatlantic wars, had won the battle to become the first advertiser on the service. Virgin Media expects the new channel, aimed at men aged 25 to 54, to be among the top ten multi-channels by 2012. (source: Timesonline)

Poor sugar trading and currency pressures have allowed shares in Tate & Lyle to fall by 25%. Tate & Lyle will report a loss for the six months to September 30, 2007, against a £15 million gain in the comparable period after sugar prices fell during a August. It is understood that the weakness of the US dollar ($1 - £2) will impact profits by as much as £12 million ($24 million). Their corporation tax has also been increased from the average 30% to 34% following a restructure of the business when it sold of its European cereal sweeteners business.

Commenting on future trading, Tate & Lyle said "given the importance of these factors, the board views the near term outlook with caution."

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