BSkyB to be ordered to cut ITV stake

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LONDON -- British Sky Broadcasting will likely be told this week to cut its 17.9% stake in ITV to under 10% to avoid having too great an influence on the commercial broadcaster, according to reports Wednesday.

A review into the stake from antitrust body the Competition Commission will be handed to business and industry secretary John Hutton by the end of the week, according to the Financial Times. The paper says the Commission will recommend cutting the stake to 5%-10% within six months.

BSkyB astonished the media world here by swooping on the 940 million euro ($1.9 billion) stake last fall, paying a 35% premium to the then share price. ITV's total shareholding has fallen in value by a further 18%. It would be expected to register a loss of 240 million euros ($490 million) in the event of a forced sale.

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade and BSkyB's key rival Virgin Media had both complained to the competition authorities that the stake was "against the public interest" and gave BSkyB potential "undue influence" over the commercial broadcaster.
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