BSkyB receives interest in ITV stake

LONDON - BSkyB has received expressions of interest in its controversial ITV stake from European broadcaster RTL and US billionaire Haim Saban.

A ruling by the Competition Commission earlier this year ordered BSkyB to reduce its 17.9% stake in ITV to less than 7.5%, because it hampered competition. Sky has challenged the decision.

The satellite broadcaster acquired the stake in 2006 to block a takeover of the company by rival Virgin Media.

ITV's share price has fallen by more than 40% since Sky paid £940m for its stake. Sky is facing a loss of over £300m if it sells at the current price, which is hovering around the 64p per share mark.

US billionaire Saban, who made his money from the Power Rangers children's show, has a track record of close ties with Rupert Murdoch's media empire.

He folded his television production company Saban entertainment into Murdoch's Fox Family Worldwide, which was later sold in 2001 for £2.6bn to The Walt Disney Company.

He now operates the media investment company Saban Capital Group, which oversees, among other interests, Univision Communications, the Spanish-language media company; and Bezeq, Israel's former state owned telecoms group.

RTL, which owns UK terrestrial channel Five, has held talks with Sky before and is said to have stepped up its interest.

The European broadcaster is looking to enlarge its presence in the UK, having recently invested millions of pounds into Five's digital channels Five US and Fiver in an effort to grow market share and reinforce the main channel.

The broadcaster has long been considered a good partner for ITV, given their similar terrestrial broadcast platforms.

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