Time Warner and Acolytes Retreat from ITV Bid

18 July 2005

A Time Warner-led consortium stalking Britain's largest commercial broadcaster ITV, has retreated in the face of the latter's eyewatering £586 million ($1.03bn; €854m) pension fund deficit.

TW, the planet's largest media company (in real terms, as opposed to Google's current - and probably ephemeral - market worth) has reportedly been eyeing ITV for some months [WAMN: 12-Jul-05].

Also circling the potential kill alongside TW were US investment bank Goldman Sachs and UK private equity firm Apax Partners - the latter 'advised' by Greg Dyke, a former commercial broadcaster who became BBC director general until his politically engineered resignation in 2003.

According to Monday's Financial Times, TW and its partners were contemplating a 'bridgehead' stake - between ten to fifteen per cent - in the UK broadcaster. But confronted with the pension deficit and other debt, cold feet overcame gastric juices and discussions were abandoned late last week.

ITV chairman Sir Peter Burt has acknowledged the pension skeleton in ITV's cupboard, telling shareholders at the annual meeting earlier this year the broadcaster was reviewing the situation and will decide how to resolve the problem by the year end.

So the predators' retreat might be merely strategic. If Burt, a banker by background, can prestidigitate the pension problem, a return to the kill is on the cards.

Data sourced from Financial Times Online; additional content by WARC staff