ITV predicts ad revenue increase

Shares leap 7% on upbeat trading statement

BERLIN -- Shares in U.K. commercial broadcaster ITV soared 7% to 48 pence (80 cents) Thursday on an upbeat trading statement, which predicted that advertising revenues would be back in the black in December, following almost 18 months of declines.

The broadcaster said that advertising revenues were down just 3% in October, which was better than expected and would rise 4% in December.

In the nine months to Sept. 30th total revenues from broadcasting and online were down 12% at £1.1 billion ($1.83 billion) year-on-year, while revenues from ITV's international production arm ITV Global were up 11% at £229 million ($380 million) over the same period.

ITV said its cost-cutting program was on track to deliver £155 million ($257.3 million) of savings in 2009. The television company also repaid £75 million ($124.5 million) of debt and confirmed a seven-year bond last month.

The news came as former Merrill Lynch Europe head Bob Wigley emerged as the latest candidate thought likely to replace Michael Grade as chairman.

Wigley, who has no track record running a broadcasting company, stepped down from Merrill Lynch last year and is currently chairman of listings company Yell.

The financier advised on major deals including Royal Bank of Scotland's ill-fated takeover of Dutch giant ABN Amro, which lead to the bank having to be bailed out by the British taxpayer.

His first job would be to hire a new chief executive.

ITV has struggled to find replacements for Grade, who for three years held both the chairman and CEO posts before his performance was nixed by shareholders.

A stormy four-month courtship with former BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball eventually fell apart after a row over who would take the chairman's role with Ball as chief executive. Subsequently former Reed boss Crispin Davies and former Channel 4 chairman Michael Bishop both walked away from the chairman's job.

ITV chief operating officer and acting chief executive John Cresswell declined comment on the leadership of the broadcaster, but insisted that business was improving.

"Whilst our visibility is limited, the outlook for the fourth quarter has continued to improve and ITV is continuing to outperform the market. With further cost savings and a strong schedule in 2010, including the World Cup, we are confident that ITV is well-positioned to benefit from any market recovery."