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TV3 Ireland stake up for grabs

Control of web about to change hands

TORONTO — Thanks to some maneuvering by Winnipeg-based CanWest Global, control of TV3 Ireland is about to change hands, with either a compendium of European investors taking 100% of the TV web, or Granada Media, the U.K. operator wholly owned by ITV and CanWest’s joint-venture partner, upping its stake in TV3 from 45% to 100%.

CanWest Granada Media Holdings has received a E265 million ($338.5 million) bid for TV3 Ireland from Doughty Hanson & Co., one of the largest independent private equity firms in Europe, for 100% of the web.

CanWest is expected to receive E138 million of the sale’s proceeds. CanWest Ireland Sales, which negotiated the deal, is 100% held by CanWest.

“It’s a strategic decision,” said Tom Strike, prexy of CanWest Mediaworks Intl.

CanWest bought into TV3 and Ulster TV in the late 1990s with an eye to expanding its TV presence in the U.K. and Ireland, but the plan went awry. “We couldn’t get enough critical mass to make it make sense for us,” Strike said. Last year CanWest sold its stake in Ulster TV.

CanWest owns 45% of the web; partner Granada Media owns another 45%; and the remaining 10% is in the hands of individual investors, including TV3 founder James Morris.

According to the terms of the joint-venture deal with CanWest, Granada Media now must either match Doughty Hanson’s offer for CanWest’s 45% stake, or throw its stake in with the offer.

If the deal goes ahead, ITV, which has recently sold a number of assets, stands to make £132 million ($$238 million).

Said an ITV spokeswoman: “”We cannot comment until we have seen the formal offer. Under the shareholder agreement we have preemption rights on CanWest’s stake and have 90 days to either match or sell. There is no deal done yet.”

The deal is subject to regulatory approval.

(Steve Clarke in London contributed to this report.)

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