UTV Ireland will be stronger on back of €136m deal - ITV
ITV said it plans to "further strengthen" UTV Ireland after agreeing to buy the television station as part of a £100m (€136.6m) deal.
The deal is part of an acquisition of all UTV Media's television stations, including its Northern Irish channel. It is contingent on the approval of regulators and shareholders.
UTV Ireland, which launched in January, has had a rocky start with revenue falling below expectations in its first six months because of a slower-than- predicted build in audience numbers. It posted an operating loss of €10.2m for the period.
But ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said that he was positive about the station's future prospects. "UTV Television's strategic objectives are closely aligned with our own and we are very pleased that they are joining the ITV family. We are looking forward to working with the team going forward.
"UTV Ireland is already the second most watched channel in peak in Ireland and ITV intends to strengthen the channel further with high-quality ITV programming at its core," said ITV in a statement.
UTV chief executive John McCann said that "becoming part of the ITV family is by far the best way to take UTV's Television business forward with an ongoing focus to provide brilliant television to viewers right across Ireland."
Davy Stockbrokers analyst Robert Stokes said the deal was positive for both UTV and ITV.
"ITV will have the capability of adding additional content to the channel (UTV Ireland) itself. While loss-making currently, there is probably a strategic advantage to that business.
"They've licences in place, they've contracts in place. With the content ITV can provide into that, I would think for both providers this is a good deal."
Investors also welcomed the deal. Shares in UTV Media leapt 8.7pc in morning trading in Dublin yesterday on the back of the announcement.
The company said selling the television stations would enable it to focus on "continuing opportunities" in radio and online.
UTV is the owner of radio stations including FM104, Q102 and UK-based Talksport.
The company intends to stop using the name UTV, contingent on shareholder approval. ITV will own the UTV brand.
It also intends to return some of the sale proceeds to shareholders, with the precise amount not yet determined. The deal is expected to complete early next year.
It includes a break fee arrangement which will see UTV pay ITV a fee of £1m if the deal fails to complete as a result of UTV Media plc failing to obtain the approval of its shareholders to the deal by no later than December 31, 2015.
UTV chairman Richard Huntingford said: "The last few years have seen increasing consolidation in the global television sector, creating media companies that span content, broadcast and platform ownership.
"Having successfully extended the reach of our television business with the launch of UTV Ireland, I believe that shareholder value can be maximised through our television interests becoming part of ITV's global broadcast and content business. He added that the price "reflects the inherent value within the UTV Television business".