Comcast Shoots Down Merger Report as ITV Stock Price Rises

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UPDATE: A Comcast spokesman has formally denied the report of ITV Group being in merger discussions with Comcast’s NBCUniversal. “We don’t comment on M&A rumors but the speculation on ITV is just completely inaccurate,” spokesman John Demming told Variety.

LONDON — ITV’s share price rose 4% Monday following a report in the Mail on Sunday that claimed Comcast is readying a bid for the U.K.-based broadcasting and production group.

ITV shares rose to 274.23p ($408), which values the group at just over £11 billion ($16.4 billion). Sources close to Comcast disputed the report, but Comcast and ITV officially had no comment.

ITV has repeatedly been the focus of takeover rumors in the past year. Previously, the most likely bidder was thought to be John Malone’s Liberty Global, which owns a 9.9% stake in the company. Liberty Global also controls U.K. cable operator Virgin Media.

In his five years in charge, ITV chief executive Adam Crozier has transformed the company. When he joined, its focus was chiefly on free-to-air broadcasting, operating in one market, the U.K. It is now increasingly centered on program-making for the international market and distribution, and is also involved in the pay TV business. Almost half its revenue comes from outside the U.K.

ITV has invested heavily in production companies — many of which have been in the U.S. These investments have included controlling stakes in Gurney Prods., which produces “Duck Dynasty,” High Noon Entertainment, the company behind “Cake Boss” and “Tough Love,” Thinkfactory Media, whose shows include “Hatfields & McCoys,” DiGa Vision, which produces “Teen Wolf,” Leftfield Entertainment Group, whose series include “Pawn Stars” and “Real Housewives of New Jersey,” and John de Mol’s Talpa Media, which created “The Voice.”

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