NTL seeking ITV takeover talks


NTL seeking ITV takeover talks
NTL has confirmed that it is considering a merger with commercial broadcaster ITV.

Responding to press reports that a bid was imminent, a statement from the telecoms firm this evening said that it had "scheduled an initial conversation with ITV".

But both NTL and ITV have stressed that with discussions not even yet underway, the prospect of a merger remains a very distant possibility.

Earlier this year, then chief executive Charles Allen rejected a takeover bid from a private equity group. ITV is yet to appoint a permanent successor to Mr Allen, who left the company earlier this autumn.

NTL meanwhile, which merged with Telewest in March and plans to rename itself under the Virgin brand next year following the £960 million acquisition of Virgin Mobile, is lumbered with debts of £5.4 billion and could represent a major stumbling block to any prospective deal.

Today's statement from NTL said: "NTL confirms that it has advised ITV of its interest in exploring a possible combination transaction and has scheduled an initial conversation with ITV to that end. This process is at a very preliminary stage and there is no assurance that these discussions will lead to any offer being made for ITV."

ITV emphasised in their own response to media speculation that it had received a "highly tentative expression of interest in holding discussions about a possible combination of NTL with ITV".

"In the interests of its shareholders, the board of ITV has indicated its willingness to listen to any bona fide proposal, but to date no meeting has been held nor has any proposal been received. Accordingly, there can be no certainty that any compelling construct will be forthcoming, still less that any merger or takeover will result.

"A further announcement will be made as and when appropriate," the statement added.

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