TV3 parent eyes UTV Ireland buyout

US billionaire John Malone’s Virgin Media — which owns TV3 and the UPC cable operator — is reportedly poised to buy out rival broadcaster UTV Ireland, sparking fears for jobs at the fledgeling broadcaster.

Mr Malone’s holding giant, Liberty Global, which is valued at over €24.5bn, has long been expanding its reach across Europe, snapping up television production firms as it positions itself to produce media content.

Mr Malone’s Virgin Media unit acquired TV3, based in south west Dublin, in a deal worth €87m last year.

It was long speculated that Liberty Global had eyes on acquiring UTV Ireland, which operates from a base in the Dublin docklands.

There were links between the companies because the TV3 soap, Red Rock, was co-produced by a unit 50%-owned by Liberty.

Liberty Global had also increased its stake to 9.9% in ITV over a year ago, raising speculation of a mega-buyout of ITV, valued at £7.3bn (€8.7bn).

The Sunday Telegraph reported Virgin Media was in talks to buy UTV Ireland from ITV.

ITV acquired UTV Ireland when it paid the Belfast parent company €135m for its TV assets, in a deal unveiled last October.

UTV Ireland has struggled to make money despite snatching the rights to broadcast Coronation Street from TV3 ahead of its launch 18 months ago.

A spokesman in London for Liberty Global said yesterday it does not comment on speculation.

Any deal would mark a further consolidation of broadcasting assets across Ireland. Last week, UTV’s former radio stations in the UK and Ireland were sold to News Corp for £220m.


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