itvCable operator ntl has abandoned its attempt to acquire ITV. In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, US-listed ntl said it was unlikely to be able to acquire ITV “on terms acceptable to ntl”. Ntl said it had now submitted its views on BSkyB’s purchase of a 17.9% stake in ITV to both the Office of Fair Trading and Ofcom, “because it presents serious competition and public interest issues”.
“The fact that Sky would spend nearly $2bn to acquire its stake immediately following the mere announcement of ntl’s proposed combination, before the ITV board had an opportunity to respond, highlights the magnitude of the competition issues involved,” said ntl.

The cable group—in which Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group has a 10.5% stake—said it reserved the right to make another offer in the next six months in the event that ITV’s board might recommend a merger or that “Sky sells all or a material part of its stake in ITV”. Ntl—which will rebrand as Virgin Media in the first quarter of 2007—said it would now focus on integrating ntl, Telewest and Virgin Mobile. ITV rejected ntl’s £4.7bn offer a fortnight ago, saying there was was “little, if any, strategic logic for ITV to combine with ntl”.

Meanwhile, Stephen Carter, former Ofcom CEO and once a front-runner to lead ITV, has taken the top job at City PR firm Brunswick. Carter’s name was linked to the ITV post even before the resignation of Charles Allen in August, but ITV shocked the media world last week with the surprise poaching of BBC chairman Michael Grade as its new hands-on executive chairman.

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By Expat