Liberty increases ITV stake holding
| 31 July 2015
Just a couple of days after the UK's largest commercial broadcaster released strong half-yearly results, ITV has found itself the object of increased share buying by rival media firm Liberty Global.
Despite its share of viewing falling over the first half of 2015, interim results for the six months to 30 June 2015 showed ITV with revenue up across all parts of its business and double-digit profit growth. Total external revenue was up 11% year-on-year to £1.356 billion with a 5% growth in net advertising revenue (NAR) to £838 million. Non-NAR revenue showed annual growth of 18% to £693 million. These were the drivers for adjusted EBITA to climb 24% compared with the first half of 2014 to £400 million.
With its investment eye as keen as ever, Liberty Global has now acquired 138.7 million shares in ITV, thereby increasing its existing stake to 398.5 million. This represents approximately 9.9% of ITV's ordinary shares outstanding. At the same time it has also entered into a hedging transaction with respect to the ITV shares and has acquired and obtained further financing from its hedge counterparty.
Recognising potential media speculation surrounding such moves, Liberty Global stressed that its action could in not be regarded as the first steps in making an offer to acquire ITV. It added that no prior regulatory approval was required at this level of investment.
Commented CEO Mike Fries: "Given ITV's operating and stock price performance, we were able to increase our stake to 9.9% with no incremental investment by hedging our existing equity position. This investment remains an opportunistic one for us in our largest market. ITV is a well-run company with attractive growth potential, and we are pleased to increase our position as their largest shareholder."