John Malone’s Liberty Global has been on an acquisitions spree in Europe over the past year, and while the company says it does not intend to make a takeover bid for the whole, it has purchased a 6.4% stake in the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster ITV. Liberty has acquired 259.8 million shares in ITV from BSkyB for approximately £481M ($824M), the company said in a statement early Thursday morning.
Liberty CEO Mike Fries said, “This is an opportunistic and attractive
investment for us in our largest cable market.” Liberty last year bought the UK’s Virgin Media in a $23B deal and earlier this year agreed to pay $9.4B in cash and stock for Dutch cable operator Ziggo. With Discovery, it also acquired UK production company All3Media in a $930M deal in May. ITV, which itself has been buying up production companies left and right in the U.S. and UK, has been the subject of takeover chatter over the past few years as it reduces its dependence on advertising and is well advanced in a five-year plan to slash debt.
Liberty says it will 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. At this level, no regulatory approvals are required. Liberty has reserved the right to announce an offer, or possible offer, or to make or participate in an offer or
possible offer for ITV within the next six months, it said today.
BSkyB first bought a stake in ITV in 2006, but was later forced to reduce its holdings. Speculation has been that the company would need to raise several billion in funds if it is to go ahead with a plan to merge with Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia.
ITV airs such series as Downton Abbey, Mr Selfridge and Broadchurch. In the last nearly two years, it has also acquired such production companies as Leftfield Entertainment, Gurney Productions, High Noon Entertainment, Thinkfactory Media and DiGa Vision in the U.S., as well as UK producers So Television, The Garden and Big Talk.