ITV wants Sky out
November 8, 2007
ITV has told the UK Competition Commission it wants Sky off its share register. The broadcaster said Sky’s ability to influence ITV’s decisions on planned investments would lead to a "substantial loosening" of competition, which required a "comprehensive and effective" remedy.
In its submission to the Commission, which is currently investigating Sky’s stake, ITV said it had a "wide range" of "genuine and realistic" prospective investments. The broadcaster added that there was a "realistic and genuine" prospect that at least one would be made within two years.
ITV outlined a number of "strategic investments" that it believed put it in direct competition with Sky, such as plans to buy independent production companies and its involvement in free satellite service Freesat. "The only such remedy is a complete divestment of BSkyB’s stake in ITV," the commercial broadcaster said in its submission.
"Only such a remedy would ensure that it [ITV] is able to make the decisions that it envisages making in the short to medium term without the fear that those decisions may be adversely influenced by its biggest competitor through the medium of its shareholding. ITV therefore requests that the Competition Commission recommends such a remedy in its report to the secretary of state."
ITV said lowering the stake to 9.9 per cent would not satisfactorily address the issues, although cutting it to 4.9 per cent, accompanied by a prohibition on Sky seeking or accepting board representation, "would at least begin" to address its concerns.
If a divestment took place, ITV added, Sky should not be able to sell its stake to anyone connected to BSkyB or News International, News Corporation’s UK newspaper subsidiary. News Corp is also the largest shareholder in BSkyB.
In Sky’s submission, the satellite broadcaster offered to place 3.9 per cent of its stake in a special trust, leaving it with direct control of 14.9 per cent.