Tuesday 6 December 2016

TV3 bidder's parent Liberty Global ups stake in broadcaster ITV to 9.9pc

Published 31/07/2015 | 10:42

LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 09: David Walliams and Kate Beckinsale attending the ITV summer party in Notting Hill on July 9, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/GC Images)
LONDON, ENGLAND - JULY 09: David Walliams and Kate Beckinsale attending the ITV summer party in Notting Hill on July 9, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Mark Robert Milan/GC Images)

European cable operator Liberty Global said it had raised its stake in ITV to 9.9pc through a hedging deal but still had no intention of taking over Britain's biggest free-to-air commercial TV firm.

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Liberty global owns UPC which is bidding for TV3.

Liberty, the owner of pay-TV company Virgin Media, took a 6.4 percent stake in ITV a year ago, and in September said it had no plans to increase the holding.

"Given ITV's operating and stock price performance, we were able to increase our stake to 9.9 percent with no incremental investment by hedging our existing equity position," Liberty said on Friday.

"This investment remains an opportunistic one for us in our largest market."

Liberty Global confirmed it did not intend to make an offer to acquire ITV.

Backed by U.S. tycoon John Malone, who also controls Liberty Media Corp and Discovery Communications, Liberty Global has bought cable assets across Europe in the past decade and has more recently started buying strategic stakes in content producers.

ITV has been snapping up independent production companies, such as Talpa Media which makes entertainment show "The Voice", to reduce its reliance on its broadcasting business in Britain.

Liberty bought its initial holding in ITV from satellite broadcaster Sky in July 2014 for 481 million pounds, a deal that boosted ITV's share price by 8 percent as investors bet that a full takeover would follow.

Shares in ITV, which reported a 25 percent increase in first-half pretax profit on Tuesday, have risen by 57 percent since Liberty bought its initial stake.

Analyst Ian Whittaker at Liberum said he expected ITV's shares to jump again on Friday.

"Liberty has stated it does not intend to make a bid for ITV but its move suggests that it thinks a move by another player is likely or, at least, an increasing possibility," he said.

Reuters

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