BSkyB OK to appeal ITV sale ruling

Satellite broadcaster fights watchdog org

Europe’s biggest paybox, BSkyB, has won a victory in its long-running battle to hang onto its 17.9% stock holding in beleaguered U.K. terrestrial web ITV.

Blighty’s Court of Appeal has agreed to hear BskyB’s appeal against a ruling, made more than a year ago by local regulator the Competition Commission, that it must cut its stake in ITV to less than 7.5%.

Since former BSkyB chief exec James Murdoch paid in excess of $1 billion for the ITV stake in fall 2006 to block a takeover bid for ITV by cable rival NTL, subsequently rebranded Virgin Media, ITV’s stock price has plunged from almost $2 to below 30¢.

The satcaster has already written down the value of the investment by around $1 billion.

BSkyB’s appeal against the Competition Commission ruling was rejected last year, but BSkyB took the case directly to the Court of Appeal, which said it will hear the case. A hearing is expected in the next three months.

BSkyB hopes that by the time the matter is resolved, ITV’s stock price will have rallied, but with ITV’s ad revenues down 20% in the first quarter, there is no sign of any recovery.

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