Liberty Global acquires Sky’s ITV stake
Cable MSO Liberty Global has acquired 259.8 million shares in UK free–to-air commercial broadcaster ITV from British Sky Broadcasting Group for some £481 million, giving it a 6.4 per cent stake.
Mike Fries, Liberty Global’s Chief Executive Officer, described the stake as “an opportunistic and attractive investment” for the operator in its largest cable market. “ITV is the leading commercial broadcaster in the UK and we’re excited to be shareholders,” he added.
Liberty Global intends to finance the acquisition of ITV shares through a combination of a loan linked to a hedging transaction that would be secured by ITV shares and existing liquidity. With this level of investment, no regulatory approvals are required.
In accordance with the UK’s Takeover Code, Liberty Global confirmed that it does not intend to make an offer to acquire ITV.
Ironically, in November 2006, BSkyB acquired a then 17.9 per cent stake in ITV for £940 million, thwarting plans by NTL, later Virgin Media, to buy the broadcaster. Liberty Global acquired Virgin Media for $23.3 billion in February 2013.
However, in December 2007, the UK’s Competition Commission ruled that BSkyB had to reduce its stake to 7.5 per cent.
In January 2008, the then business secretary, John Hutton, upheld the Competition Commission ruling, with BSkyB appealing to the Competition Appeal Tribunal in February 2008.
The Competition Appeal Tribunal rejected the appeal outright in September 2008, with BSkyB being given leave to take its case to the Court of Appeal in March 2009.
In January 2010, the Court of Appeal rejected BSkyB’s case, with the satellite operator selling a 10.4 per cent stake in February 2010 at a £348 million loss.