Virgin appeals BSkyB/ITV ruling


LONDON -- Cable group Virgin Media on Monday launched a legal bid aimed at forcing British Sky Broadcasting to fully divest its 17.9% stake in commercial broadcaster ITV, arguing that the current ruling that the satcaster cut its stake to under 7.5% does not go far enough.

The Nasdaq-listed cable operator said it has lodged an appeal with antitrust body the Competition Appeal Tribunal, calling for BSkyB to be ordered to sell its ITV stake completely.

Last week, BSkyB lodged its own case with the CAT, appealing the Competition Commission's ruling that it cut its ITV stake to under 7.5% was unfair.

"While Virgin Media strongly supports the Competition Commission's conclusions that the acquisition has led to a substantial lessening of competition, it is appealing the Competition Commission's recommendation that a reduction of BSkyB's stake in ITV to 7.5% is adequate to address this problem," the cable company said in a statement Monday. "Virgin Media believes the Competition Commission has made significant errors in interpreting and applying these rules."

Virgin Media said that if the commission's ruling were not corrected, it will "undermine the future efficacy and objectives of the public interest regime set out in the (2003 competition) act."

BSkyB is arguing that it should not have to sell down the stake it spent 940 million euros ($1.8 billion) acquiring in November 2006. It has since written off 340 million euros ($669 million) of the acquisition price as the value of ITV shares has plunged.