Dyke Defeated, ITV to Seduce Shareholders With Cash

04 April 2006

The UK's largest commercial television company, ITV, having last week rejected a sweetened £1.6 billion ($2.78bn; €2.29bn) bid from the US private equity consortium fronted by former BBC director general Greg Dyke, now aims to regain the affections of its major stockholders.

Flourishing bundles of moolah worth up to £1bn, ITV chairman Sir Peter Burt and ceo Charles Allen will embark on a shareholder charm offensive later this week.

They may not meet with a cordial reception from some of the moneymen, miffed that the Dyke bid was rejected. US mutual fund manager Fidelity Investments is reportedly one such disgruntled punter.

Under siege by Dyke and his cohorts, ITV management promised to return up to £300m in cash to its needy stockholders. That figure has now been upped to £1bn - reflecting perhaps the price of support from some of the broadcaster's institutional investors?

But even ITV's famously parsimonious Allen doesn't keep a billion in ready cash beneath his bed and will now be considering the sale of non-core assets - for example the broadcaster's 10% stakes in both Arsenal and Liverpool soccer clubs. Its cinema advertising business Carlton Screen Advertising, may also be put up for grabs.

Allen, an avid cost-cutter at the best of times, is also said to be eying potential savings at the company's flagship channel ITV1. He may well be tempted to emulate Dyke's plan to stop commissioning locally-produced programmes and replace them with lower-cost US equivalents.

Data sourced from BrandRepublic (UK); additional content by WARC staff