News Column

Shares soar as Liberty picks up £481m ITV stake

July 18, 2014


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," Lib-erty 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 Euro-pean 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 socalled Sky Europe pay-TV empire.

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Source: City A.M. (UK)

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