Business

£100m UTV sale includes channels on both sides of border

UTV is being sold to ITV for £100m

THE £100 million sale of UTV Media's television assets to ITV will allow it to offload its loss making UTV Ireland station.

The new channel launched in January but has performed well below expectations.

Earlier this year, it admitted losses at the channel would be four times more than anticipated at around £11.5 million in 2015.

It said signs of audience growth seen in the first quarter of the year had stalled.

UTV Media announced yesterday it had agreed to sell its television assets to ITV - which would mean the broadcaster would own 13 of the 15 regional licences for channel three in the UK.

However, the channel will continue to be known as UTV.

UTV Media - which may have to change its name as part of the deal - said the sale would allow it to "focus on opportunities within radio and online".

It will retain a portfolio of radio stations that include TalkSport, a string of local stations across Britain and the Republic and U105 in the north.

ITV said the transaction would be financed through existing cash and debt facilities.

UTV Media's television assets achieved total revenue of £34.7 million and operating profit of £6.6 million in 2014. However, the broadcaster posted lower profits in its half-year results this August.

Belfast-based UTV was the first commercial television channel in Ireland when it launched as part of the ITV Network in 1959. It has been in local control since then.

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said: "We have a long-standing relationship with UTV, which has been the leading commercial broadcaster in Northern Ireland for many years thanks to its strong regional identity and blend of excellent local programming and strong network shows."

UTV chairman Richard Huntingford said the sale followed years of "increasing consolidation in the global television sector, creating media companies that span content, broadcast and platform ownership".

"Having successfully extended the reach of our television business with the launch of UTV Ireland, I believe that shareholder value can be maximised through our television interests becoming part of ITV's global broadcast and content business," he said.

“I believe that the price reflects the inherent value within the UTV Television business. ITV will be a good owner of the business and, with its scale and reach, will be able to accelerate the future growth of the business. I want to thank all the UTV Television staff for their outstanding service to UTV over many years, and I wish them every success in the future.

“As the UTV pension scheme will remain with UTV Limited, this removes any future funding liability from the continuing group, and our shareholders will benefit from a significant return of cash. We plan to continue to pursue our successful strategy in our radio businesses.”

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