BSkyB Sells ITV Stake to Virgin Media Owner Liberty Global for £481m
BSkyB 9-month profit up 9%. Photo: BSkyBBSkyB

British Sky Broadcasting (BSkyB) has sold its 6.4% stake in ITV to cable giant Liberty Global, raising funds ahead of a potential deal to expand in Europe.

BSkyB, which is in talks with Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox to buy the latter's pay-TV assets in Germany and Italy, said it had sold the ITV stake for £481m ($824m, €608m).

ITV's stock was trading 8.60% higher to 199.60p at 11:29 BST in London.

The purchase will help Liberty Global, controlled by US billionaire John Malone, further expand its cable empire in Europe, where it makes a majority of its revenues.

Liberty will finance the acquisition of ITV shares through a combination of a loan linked to a hedging transaction that will be secured by ITV shares and existing liquidity. With this level of investment, no regulatory approvals are required, the firm said in a statement.

Liberty also said that it does not intend to make an offer to acquire ITV.

Liberty Global chief executive Mike Fries said in the statement: "This is an opportunistic and attractive investment for us in our largest cable market.

"ITV is the leading commercial broadcaster in the UK and we're excited to be shareholders."

Liberty's UK Assets

In May 2014, Liberty and US cable firm Discovery Communications together acquired British television producer All3Media from London-based private-equity firm Permira Advisers for £550m.

Liberty also owns Virgin Media.

BSkyB Growth

The British pay-TV group added 74,000 new customers to its pay-TV service in its third financial quarter.

That was more than double the growth in new BSkyB customers during the same period a year before, taking the total subscriptions in the nine months to 31 March, 2014, to 764,000.

The company reported a 7% rise in revenue during the nine months, to £5.6bn. However, profit before tax and other items fell 2% to £1.2bn.

Murdoch's 21st Century Fox is the largest shareholder in BSkyB with a 39.1% stake.

Liberty, which acquired Virgin Media for $16bn in 2013, operates in 14 countries, 12 of which are in Europe.