Up for grabs? 

29 September 2008 tbs.pm/947

BSkyB ordered to cut ITV stake

Although a decision has now been made in relation to BSkyB and its ITV stake, namely that BSkyB has to sell at least some of its 17.9% “spoiler stake” in ITV so that it’s reduced to a less controversial 7.5% (or less), don’t expect any changes in the immediate future.

Firstly, BSkyB has six months in order to comply with the decision, and rest assured that it will take at least that long for them to sell the shares unless there’s a miraculous recovery in the ITV share price (for one thing Sky would hope that the ITV share price may go back up to somewhere closer to the 135p a share it originally paid for them).

And unless that miraculous share price recovery happens, Sky will doubtless be appealing the decision to sell its ITV shares every step of the way, which will inevitably add months to the process as a result, so don’t expect anyone to be instantly interested in buying ITV shares in the current economic climate unless they were really determined.

The honest truth is that if there really was a wealthy bidder that was actively interested in buying ITV at this moment in time, they would have already made a move by now. Sky’s stake only really served to deter Virgin Media from its fairly weak ITV takeover attempt as well as making life a little bit harder for anyone else wanting a piece of ITV.