Page last updated at 15:59 GMT, Monday, 14 July 2008 16:59 UK

Bid speculation lifts ITV shares

ITV chairman Michael Grade
ITV's share price has not made happy viewing for Michael Grade

Shares in ITV have risen by as much as 13% on speculation about a potential takeover of the UK broadcaster.

This followed remarks by the co-founder of TV production firm Endemol, reported by the Financial Times, that a tie-up with ITV could "make sense".

ITV's shares have dropped sharply in value recently amid concerns about the outlook for the economy.

Research published on Monday suggested companies were reducing their marketing spend at the fastest rate since 2001.

ITV's financial performance is heavily influenced by the willingness of companies to maintain advertising budgets, something which is in doubt as the economy slows markedly.

This one is an example of a combination that could make sense, depending on numbers
John de Mol, co-founder, Endemol

ITV has been subject to takeover speculation several times since it was formed by the merger of Carlton and Granada several years ago.

Endemol, the maker of Big Brother and Deal or No Deal, is the latest in a long list of firms to be linked with ITV, including US network NBC and channel Five owner RTL.

John de Mol, who helped launch Endemol and owns a stake in the business, told the Financial Times that ITV might be of interest to the firm.

"This one is an example of a combination that could make sense, depending on numbers," he said, adding he wouldn't "want to exclude" such a scenario.

Advertising weakness

ITV boss Michael Grade said in May that the TV advertising market was holding up "relatively well" although ITV expects ad revenues in the first half of the year to be flat.

But industry research suggests a bleak outlook with advertisers less confident about the future than at any time since the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.

Advertising budgets have been revised down for the third month in a row, according to the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising's quarterly Bellwether report.

"Rising costs and weaker-than-expected sales put pressure on companies to cut marketing budgets in the second quarter to protect profit margins," said report author Chris Williamson.

Adding to the uncertainty over ITV's future is the possibility that rival broadcaster BSkyB may soon be forced to sell a large chunk of its 17.9% stake on competition grounds.

At close, ITV shares were up 4.8 pence, or 12.53%, at 43.10p.

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