BSkyB can challenge decision on ITV stake

Executive chairman Michael Grade opposed move

ROME -- BSkyB on Friday welcomed a U.K. Court of Appeal ruling that will allow it to challenge antitrust regulators' decision to force it to sell down its 17.9% stake in commercial broadcaster ITV to less than 7.5%.

The satcaster, which paid £1.36 ($1.96) a share for a 17.9% stake in ITV back in November 2006, faced opposition at the time from ITV as well as rival Virgin Media and other commercial parties who said the ownership stake gave the satcaster too much control over ITV.

ITV executive chairman Michael Grade also opposed the move, saying it potentially allowed BSkyB to exert too much influence over rights acquisitions.

That view was supported by the Competition Commission and upheld by the Competition Appeals Tribunal in September. But the decision was appealed by BSkyB in the U.K. Court of Appeal and BSkyB said it "welcomed" the move.

Since acquiring the 17.9% stake for £940 million ($1.4 billion at current rates), ITV's share price has crashed to less than a sixth of what BSkyB's then chief executive James Murdoch paid in 2006 and the satcaster has argued that it should not be forced to sell the stake at a significant loss.

A hearing will now be scheduled by the Court of Appeal.