US-based investment firm Osmium Partners has bought more shares in Sky TV, raising its stake from 5.7 per cent to 6.9 per cent.

The San Francisco Bay Area firm filed an Initial Substantial Shareholder Notice on September 1.

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A recent trend of insider buying has continued at Sky this week too, with chairman Philip Bowman increasing his holding from 1 million to 1.25m shares.

Last week, chief executive Sophie Moloney increased her holding in her own company’s shares from 908,333 to 1.74m.

A spokeswoman confirmed both transactions were on-market and not tied to any options scheme.

Sky has become Osmium’s second substantial New Zealand media holding.

On September 1 last year, the US firm disclosed it has built an 8.8 per cent stake in NZ Herald publisher NZME in a series of trades, buying shares at prices between 25c and 40c as the stock recovered from an early-pandemic trough.

Osmium continued to buy NZME shares, and today has a 19.1 per cent holding. NZME was recently trading at 98c following a first-half result that saw an 85 per cent boost in net profit, and digital subscriptions hit a new high of 120,000.

On September 2, a week after the earnings announcement, investment bank UBS filed an Initial Substantial Shareholder Notice disclosing UBS AG London had bought shares equating to a 6.08 per cent stake in NZME.

Managing partner John Lewis could not be immediately reached for comment on his company’s new Sky TV stake.

In September, he outlined Osmium’s investment approach to the Herald.

“We are long-term holders of what we consider to be high-quality businesses,” the managing partner said.

“We have a process that we call the ‘Osmium 8’, which looks for a low business valuation, ability to grow earnings over time, a strong track record of capital allocation, reasonable barriers to entry, a superior user experience, attractive underlying economics, a good balance sheet, and strong board that is fair with shareholders.”

Lewis said potential dividends were not an immediate hook. When a company was trading at a low multiple to ebitda, Osmium preferred free cash to be used for a share buy-back.

Sky, which declined comment on Osmium’s investment, has seen its long-depressed shares rise sharply this week, albeit off a low base.

Shares were at 15.8c on August 25 as the pay-TV provider delivered its full-year result, in which it returned to net profit and forecast its first revenue growth since 2016.

The stock closed yesterday at20.5c.

The result saw wealth manager Jarden on August 26 upgrade its rating from underweight to neutral, but trimmed its 12-month target price from 19c to 18c.Analysts Arie Dekker and Luan Nguyen saw reasons for cautious optimism with programming rights costs peaking in the current year and streaming revenue on the increase. However, they said it was “still too early to call inflection point”.

Forsyth Barr retained its neutral rating post-earnings, with a 12-month target of 18c. Although Sky box customer losses were now stabilising and streaming subscriptions growing strongly, analysts Aaron Ibbotson and Matt Montgomerie were guarded in their comments.”Sky described this as being an inflection point but we believe the jury is still
out,” the pair told clients.

On August 27, Sky announced a renewed deal with HBO, which had been expanded to included HBO Max-branded premium content.

Financial terms were not disclosed, but Sky said it had NZ-exclusive rights to HBO programming, which precluded a full-blooded local launch of the Warner-owned HBO Max direct-to-consumer streaming service.

Sky has also recently launched an internet service, Sky Broadband, and is preparing to roll out a new streaming box that will support third-party streaming services including Netflix, Amazon’s Prime Video and Disney+. See more on Sky’s full-year result and recent developments here.

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