US cable group Liberty Global has snapped up BSkyB’s 6.4 percent stake in ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster.
ITV’s shares surged on speculation that this was the start of moves by Liberty towards a full takeover of the UK broadcaster.
Liberty denied that was its intention, but some in the financial world are still hopeful of a bid sometime in the future.
Liberty – which is owned by Billionaire John Malone, sometimes known as the Cable Cowboy – bought British cable operator Virgin Media as part of a European expansion last year.
Malone made his fortune through a series of deals that transformed and ultimately consolidated the US cable industry into one dominated by a few big players. Liberty Global is now also present in 12 European companies.
The sale of the ITV shares, at a price of 481 million pounds (608 million euros), may also indicate that BSkyB is looking to raise cash to push ahead with its own expansion plans.
It has been in talks to purchase Rupert Murdoch’s Sky Italia and Sky Deutschland.
This is just the latest in a string of deals in the global media sector.
The big one is Rupert Murdoch attempt to buy Time Warner. That was rejected but the tycoon is reportedly ‘determined’ to make it happen.
Time Warner investors say Murdoch, who is Chairman and Chief Executive of 21st Century Fox, would have to raise his bid to as much as $95 a share and boost its cash component to wrap up a merger.
Murdoch’s initial offer was about $85 a share, made up of 60 percent cash and 40 percent non-voting stock of 21st Century Fox.
As one major institutional shareholder told Reuters: “It’s a corporate poker game for sure, and Murdoch never plays his best card first. There’s always another card left to be played.”