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Wed 4th Feb 2015 - Update: Sky, Chapel Down, Whitbread
Sky reports 204,000 new customers in the UK: Sky has reported that it signed up 204,000 new customers in the six months to 31 December 2014, its highest number in nine years. Group revenue grew 5% to £5.604bn and operating profit grew 16% to £675m. It added live UK and Irish rights to The Open Championship and reported it is growing new revenue streams with Sky Store revenues up 90% year-on-year. Chief executive Jeremy Darroch said: “We have delivered an excellent operational and financial performance in our first set of results as the new Sky. We closed the first six months of the year with revenues up 5% and operating profit up 16%, reflecting strong customer demand in all five of our markets. The strength of our performance in the UK and Ireland shows that our approach to segmenting the market with the complementary Sky and NOW TV brands is working. Across the board, customers are responding to our investment in more high-quality TV and innovative new services. This has resulted in the highest customer growth in nine years, the highest total product growth in four years and the lowest churn in a decade. Alongside our continued strength in the UK and Ireland, the acquisition of Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland gives us an expanded opportunity for growth. Both businesses had a strong quarter, Germany posting its highest ever customer growth and Italy showing resilience with good customer growth in a challenging economic environment. Integration is progressing well and we are excited about the potential for the three businesses to be even stronger together. The simultaneous launch of Fortitude, our ambitious new original drama, to 20 million customers across all five markets, shows the potential we now have to operate at greater scale. This is just the first of many opportunities we have to launch new products and services for customers in the months ahead. Six months into the year, we’ve seen a good performance right across the new Sky. We have world-class capability within the expanded business and a strong set of plans that mean we are well placed to deliver growth and returns for shareholders.”

Chapel Down secures more land: Wine maker Chapel Down Group has completed two long term land leases increasing the total under lease by 181 acres to 326 acres. The first site is at Street Farm in Boxley on the North Downs (131 acres) and the second is Scurms Farm in Sandhurst (50 acres). Both sites offer prime viticultural land. Chief executive Frazer Thompson said: “This is more exciting news for us. The Boxley site is close to our existing vineyard at Kits Coty and our other previously announced new site at Court Lodge Farm on the North Downs. We believe this area of the North Downs offers the finest terroir in England for sparkling varieties and successive excellent crops from Kits Coty prove it. The site in Sandhurst is in a proven area for distinctive and high quality still and sparkling varieties close to the winery at Tenterden. Both sites will be planted over the coming years to enable us to grow more World Class grapes to satisfy the increasing demand for Chapel Down wines over the next 25 years.”

Whitbread staff earn windfall from “sharesave” scheme: More than 1,300 Whitbread staff are to be handed thousands of pounds after the company’s rising share price boosted its “sharesave” scheme. A total of 1,295 people who saved £70.75 a month in the three-year scheme will be given more than £6,000 profit each. An additional 122 people who saved £48.78 in a five-year scheme will see profits of more than £12,000 each. The shares closed at £49.90 on the maturity date. 

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