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Liberty Global’s Fries: acquisition of ITV is ‘not interesting’

Mike Fries

Mike Fries

ITV’s market valuation and the premium that would be required to buy it means that the commercial broadcaster is “not interesting” as an acquisition target to Liberty Global, according to president and CEO Mike Fries.

Answering an analyst question on ITV, in which Liberty Global holds a 9.9% stake, after the cable giant reported less than stellar first quarter financials, Fries said: “If ITV was trading at a much lower multiple it might be interesting, but with where it is trading today and the premium that would be required, it is not interesting.”

Fries said that “there is no change” in Liberty’s position. He said that departing chief executive Adam Crozier had been “a great CEO”, but that his departure had no impact on Liberty Global’s view of the company as a target.

Fries said that content “is important to us” and cited the example of its investment in sports channels in Switzerland and the Netherlands. However, he said the company was focused on opportunities that are “accretive…and not dilutive”, even if it occasionally looked at opportunities purely from a strategic point of view.

Crozier’s departure from the UK’s leading commercial broadcaster, combined with the Brexit-related decline in the value of sterling, has fuelled renewed speculation that ITV could be subject to a takeover attempt by a larger media group.

In March a regulatory filing to the London stock exchange revealed that Goldman Sachs had acquired a 25% stake in ITV through a number of trades in derivatives and contracts-for-difference, with Liberty Global believed to have lent some stock to Goldman Sachs.

The move briefly led to renewed speculation about an acquisition move, with ITV’s stock spiking. However, the company’s share price fell back subsequently as investors concluded no immediate deal was in the offing.

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