Suitors circle GMTV as ITV merger looms

Disney, Scottish Media look to increase their stakes

LONDON — The merger of ITV could trigger an investment restructuring at Blighty’s biggest breakfast station, GMTV, in which ITV shareholders Carlton and Granada jointly own a 50% stake.

Walt Disney Television Intl. and Scottish Media Group, which each own 25%, are eager to increase their stakes if Carlton and Granada decide to divest their shares as part of their union. But the pair remains tight-lipped about plans for the channel.

Disney, which provides programming to GMTV, told the Financial Times on Thursday that it has an interest in increasing its stake. “If any of the other shareholders were forced to divest we would be very interested at the right price,” said David Hulbert, prexy of Walt Disney Television Intl.

Prior to the ITV merger announcement, SMG had called on the Competition Commission to force Granada and Carlton to divest before allowing the merger to go ahead, but the regulator ignored its demands.

GMTV, which leases production and studio facilities from Granada and holds the ITV breakfast franchise until 2009, reported an operating profit of £4 million ($6.4 million) on sales of $107.2 million in 2001, the latest figures available. It controls 2% of the TV ad market.

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