Who will buy ITV?

A revival of the musical Oliver! has just opened to rave reviews in London, and one of its memorable songs, “Who will buy?” has the unloved young orphan Oliver Twist being paraded around the poor London streets, and looking for a home. The same might today be said of the plight of ITV, the UK’s main commercial broadcaster. Nobody loves it.

Jan 22 saw Goldman Sachs put out a note for investors which immediately prompted ITV’s share price to fall from 30p to 28p, not quite the worst it has been recently (which was 26p a few weeks ago) but dramatically down on the 50p a share it was worth back in October. It means ITV’s market capitalisation is now at a miserable £1.13bn.

The reason for the interest is UK media regulator Ofcom’s apparent enthusiasm for a merger between Channel 4 and Channel Five. Channel Five is owned by RTL, and it was RTL which was generally considered to be the most likely buyer of some, if not all of, ITV.

“With [RTL’s] focus on C4, we believe the most credible bidder for ITV has been removed. Our price target falls from 35p to 27p as a result," Goldman said. Reportedly Italy’s Mediaset and Antena Greece are two other possible buyers of ITV, but both seen as being reluctant to commit to a full bid while the current economic uncertainty is around.