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ITV in Advanced Negotiations to Buy Majority Stake in Cattleya (EXCLUSIVE)

British broadcaster ITV is in advanced negotiations to acquire a majority stake in Cattleya, the Italian film and TV production company behind internationally successful TV dramas such as Sky Italia’s “Gomorrah” and Netflix’s upcoming “Suburra” (pictured), sources say.

The move is in line with ITV’s aggressive expansion into international production and its stated mergers and acquisitions strategy. Italy is one market in which the British TV giant hasn’t yet made any acquisitions.

French media investment consortium Mediawan had also been pursuing Cattleya, but those talks broke off several months ago, sources say.

ITV and Cattleya declined to comment. Sources say the deal is expected to close by September.

Cattleya, which does both film and television, is Italy’s top indie production shingle. The company more than doubled its revenues to $82 million in 2015, the last year for which its results have been disclosed.

Currently, Cattleya is a three-way partnership between Tozzi and producers Marco Chimenz and Giovanni Stabilini, all former Mediaset execs. Each of the three partners holds a stake of about 19%.

Other investors include Italy’s DeA Communications, which holds around 11% of the company. Universal acquired a 20% stake in 2009 but has quietly exited, reportedly after an internal buy-back last year.

Founded by Tozzi, Mediaset’s former head of drama, 20 years ago, Cattleya has recently been veering more towards TV. High-end English-language series in the pipeline include “Django,” which takes its cue from the 1966 cult Sergio Corbucci spaghetti Western, and “Suspiria De Profundis,” based on the novel by 19th century English writer Thomas De Quincey. Cattleya is also developing “Zero-Zero-Zero,” a show about the global cocaine trade written by “Gomorrah” author Roberto Saviano, in partnership with France’s Canal Plus.

ITV, Britain’s biggest commercial broadcaster, has been aggressively acquiring international production companies as part of a diversification strategy pursued by recently departed chief executive Adam Crozier. Peter Bazalgette, ITV’s chairman and interim CEO, said during an earnings call Wednesday that the M&A spree will continue.

“We continue to look at potential acquisitions and partnerships as we further build scale in our international content business,” ITV added in its new earnings report. “We have grown in size and expanded our network relationships and distribution capability. This has helped to renew and strengthen our creative talent and build our reputation as a leading European producer and distributor.”

Outside the U.K., ITV has production interests in Australia, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, and Sweden, plus an extensive unscripted and drama business in the U.S.

Already this year, ITV has struck several deals for producers, acquiring French producer Tetra Media in February and then “Line of Duty” producer World Productions and a 45% stake in Jason Blum’s Blumhouse in April. Last month, it bought Swedish producer Elk.

The production assets sit within the ITV Studios division, which on Wednesday reported an increase in revenues but a slide in profits for the first half of the year.

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