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BSkyB to swap stake in ITV plc for control of Five?

# 28 May 2007, 22:57 by matt

Saturday’s edition of The Independent reported on rumours that BSkyB may be planning on selling its 17.4% stake in ITV plc to the RTL Group.

The RTL Group is a European media giant, and currently owns UK channels “Five”, “Five Life” and “Five US”, along with 20% of “Top Up TV”.

The Independent on Sunday and Channel 4 News have also both featured rumours that, rather than simply selling its ITV stake to RTL, Sky may swap it for control of the “Five” channels.

Sky’s original purchase of 17.9% of ITV plc shares in November 2006 effectively prevented cable giant Virgin Media (still known as “NTL:Telewest” at the time) from going ahead with a proposed merger with ITV plc.

The Competition Commission is currently investigating Sky’s original purchase, and as such any deal by Sky to sell its shares in ITV plc would require sanction from Alistair Darling (Secretary of State for Trade & Industry) before it could go ahead.

Around the time of NTL:Telewest’s bid for ITV plc, and shortly before Sky’s purchase of a stake, RTL was rumoured to also be interested in purchasing ITV plc. Swapping Five for Sky’s ITV stake could help RTL achieve that aim.

Sky and RTL are also both apparently interested in bidding for Channel 4, should the Government decide to privatise it.

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