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Liberty Global buys ITV stake from BSkyB

US cable giant Liberty Global said on Thursday it has bought a 6.4 per cent stake in ITV, Britain's largest free-to-air commercial television broadcaster, from BSkyB for £481 million ($824 million, 610 million euros).

LONDON: US cable giant Liberty Global said on Thursday it has bought a 6.4 per cent stake in ITV, Britain's largest free-to-air commercial television broadcaster, from BSkyB for £481 million ($824 million, 610 million euros).

Colorado-based Liberty Global, which has made a string of European acquisitions in recent years, added in a statement however that it did not intend to make an offer to acquire ITV.

Liberty Global has purchased 259.8 million ITV shares at 185 pence per share from pay-TV giant BSkyB.

ITV broadcasts hit period drama "Downton Abbey" and long-running soap opera "Coronation Street", as well as popular reality shows "Britain's Got Talent" and "X Factor".

"This is an opportunistic and attractive investment for us in our largest cable market," said Mike Fries, Liberty Global's chief executive officer.

"ITV is the leading commercial broadcaster in the UK and we're excited to be shareholders."

A BSkyB spokesman said the deal would take its ITV shareholding to less than one per cent. The group will use the proceeds for general corporate purposes.

In 2006, BSkyB had bought a 17.9 per cent stake in ITV for £940 million. But the company was forced to slash its holding after losing an appeal against a government competition ruling in 2010.

The transaction comes as BSkyB seeks cash to fund its expansion into Europe.

The company had revealed in May that it was in talks to buy holdings in sister firms Sky Deutschland and Sky Italia from Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox media conglomerate, which currently owns 39 per cent of London-listed BSkyB.

Liberty Global's operations stretch across 14 countries worldwide.

The cable giant, controlled by US tycoon John Malone, had snapped up Britain-based Virgin Media last year in a stock and cash merger valued at $23.3 billion.

It purchased Germany's number two and three cable operators, Unitymedia and Kabel BW, in 2010 and 2011.

And earlier this year, Liberty bought Dutch cable operator Ziggo in January in a deal which valued the group at 10 billion euros.

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