Shares in BSkyB plunged on Friday as culture secretary Jeremy Hunt warned it would take "some time" to reach a decision on whether to allow Rupert Murdoch to take full control of the satellite broadcaster and added he would be taking advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading.
A day after Murdoch sought to draw a line under the phone hacking scandal by announcing the closure of News of the World - while keeping its previous editor Rebekah Brooks in her current position as chief executive of News International - David Cameron added to the growing number of calls for Brooks's resignation, suggesting the saga still has a long way to run.
If Brooks had offered her resignation "I would have taken it," Cameron said, adding that "the police must feel they can go where they need ... and question everyone to get to the bottom of this."
Shares in BSkyB crashed 47p, or 5.8%, to 765p on Friday morning, taking their total decline this week to 10%, a drop that has wiped about £1.4bn off the value of the business.
The owners of rival publications such as the Sunday Mirror and the Mail on Sunday saw their stock jump, as analysts predicted they would gain readers and advertisers left behind by the demise of News of the World. Shares in Trinity Mirror, owner of the Sunday Mirror and the People newspapers, soared by more than 10% to 53.35p, while stock in the Daily Mail & General Trust increased by as much as 3% to 492p.
Alex DeGroote, an analyst at Panmure Gordon, said: "The opportunity for Trinity Mirror is much improved market share of circulation and advertising. In terms of demographic, the Mirror titles are arguably much closer to the News of the World, and there is conceivably 2.6m circulation up for grabs."
News Corporation, where Murdoch is chairman, wants to acquire the 61% stake in BSkyB it does not already own. Analysts say the move will eventually yield far more profit than the money that the media mogul had been making from the News of the World.
DeGroote said: "The probability of a successful deal is now much reduced. Previously, we would have estimated a 90%-plus chance of a deal getting approval, and completing in the near term. Now the probability can be no more than 50%, and the time-line is likely to be drawn out."
The threat to the BSkyB deal has rattled BSkyB shareholders, who fear the government or regulator might now kick the proposed transaction into the long grass.
Their fears intensified on Thursday when Hunt said he would take "several weeks" to review the 100,000-plus submissions he has received on the deal – meaning that any further decision on the £8bn Murdoch merger is unlikely to be made until September.
In a statement this morning, a spokesman for Hunt said: "The Secretary of State has always been clear that he will take
as long as is needed to reach a decision. [He] will consider carefully all the responses submitted and take advice from Ofcom and the Office of Fair Trading before reaching his decision.
"Given the volume of responses, we anticipate that this will take some time. He will consider all relevant factors including whether the announcement regarding the News of the World's closure has any impact on the question of media plurality."