ITV shares soar amid takeover rumours

Shares in broadcaster ITV soared amid market speculation over a potential bid from RTL, the German owner of rival channel Five.

Shares in broadcaster ITV soared amid market speculation over a potential bid from RTL, the German owner of rival channel Five.

The stock rose than 5%, fuelled by market rumours that satellite broadcaster BSkyB was in talks with RTL over exchanging its 17.9% stake in the channel for Five - clearing the way for an RTL bid for ITV.

Ownership of Five would give Rupert Murdoch control of his first terrestrial channel in the UK if the deal went ahead.

The rumoured talks, reported by Channel Four news, come a day after BSkyB's £940m (€146bn) acquisition of the ITV stake last November was referred to the Competition Commission by Trade and Industry Secretary Alistair Darling.

BSkyB declined to comment. It has consistently said its stake in ITV is for investment purposes.

RTL, which also declined to comment, is the biggest TV and radio broadcaster in Europe, with 38 TV channels and 29 radio stations in 10 countries.

The German company, which had a 29% stake in Five on its launch in 1997, took full ownership of the channel in 2005.

But following the referral of BSkyB's ITV stake to competition authorities, any deal giving the broadcaster control of Five is also likely to pose regulatory problems.

Under competition rules, BSkyB will also have to gain permission from Mr Darling if it wishes to sell the stake in the next six months.

The satellite broadcaster's move for the ITV shareholding caused controversy last year after effectively blocking Virgin boss Richard Branson's plans for a merger between ITV and his newly-created Virgin Media business.

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