Liberty Global, the owner of large swathes of European cable TV infrastructure including Virgin Media, yesterday bought a 6.4 per cent stake in ITV from BSkyB for £481m.
ITV’s shares rose 6.15 per cent yesterday on hopes that Liberty might look to make a wider bid for the rest of the broadcaster’s stock.
“This is an opportunistic and attractive investment for us in our largest cable market. ITV is the leading commercial broadcaster in the UK and we’re excited to be shareholders,” Liberty chief executive Mike Fries said in a statement.
Although the company denied that it would make an offer to acquire ITV outright, under Takeover Panel rules it reserved the right to make an offer in the next six months.
Last month, Liberty finance chief Charlie Bracken told City A.M. that he wanted to build Liberty into a European content champion, adding: “At the moment, content is dominated by the US. We are believers that Europe could become a large scale content continent in its own right. There are 180m TV households in Europe compared to 110m in America, so there’s no reason why we can’t create a market to rival the US.”
The stake sale hints that BSkyB is looking to raise cash to push ahead with its own expansion plans, after it opened talks this year to buy Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland to form a so-called Sky Europe pay-TV empire.
ADAM CROZIER’S ITV TURNAROUND
- Crozier was the surprise pick for ITV chief executive in 2010. He stated his mandate was driving transformational change at ITV over the following five years.
- ITV Studios has been one of Crozier’s biggest successes as the production division has grown its revenues from £600m in 2009 to £860m last year.
- ITV has been on a spending spree to bolster content in its production division. This includes £300m spent over the past year, buying firms to boost ITV Studios.
- Far from the dark days of ITV’s £2.7bn loss in 2008, due largely to a huge write-down on the value of its assets, the broadcaster last year reported profit of £435m.
- Crozier’s success has seen his pay package rocket to £8.36m, largely due to share incentives agreed as part of his arrival in 2010 and based on ITV’s performance.
- ITV’s share price under Crozier has soared nearly 250 per cent to a record high of 210p in February.