money digest


Branson backs ITV takeover

Richard Branson, the biggest shareholder of U.K. cable operator NTL Inc., supports a takeover of broadcaster ITV Plc., a source familiar with the situation told Reuters on Friday. Branson believes a deal will create a stronger rival to satellite operator British Sky Broadcasting, which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch's News Corp., the report said. Credit Suisse analyst Bryan Kraft late last week said a potential acquisition of ITV would create opportunities but also challenges for NTL. "We agree that content can be a source of differentiation for NTL, and strategically it makes sense for NTL to want to own more content given that Sky is much more vertically integrated," he said. "At the same time, however, we are concerned about the potential economic dilution that could result from over-paying for content assets" and the risk that a deal would distract management's attention from the core cable business.

Pair expect more from Disney

Two analysts Friday reiterated their "buy" ratings and increased their price targets on shares of the Walt Disney Co. to $38, citing the expectation of continued growth at the company. Goldman Sachs analyst Anthony Noto raised his target by $1, saying in a report that "business momentum will continue." Meanwhile, Miller Tabak + Co. analyst David Joyce increased his price target by $4. "We would view any pullback in Disney shares as a buying opportunity for investors with a 12-month time horizon, as we do not foresee any one potential catalyst on the horizon but rather continued solid contributions from DVD sales and a few potential blockbuster theatrical releases in 2007, continued ratings and ad revenue gains at ESPN and ABC" and theme park gains because of a healthy economy, among other factors, Joyce said in a report. Disney shares closed down 3.5% at $32.40.