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UTV Ireland could be in line for US cable giant takeover

By Margaret Canning

UTV Ireland could be snapped up by US cable giant Liberty Global, it has been claimed.

ITV acquired UTV Ireland and UTV in Northern Ireland as part of its £100m deal to buy the company's TV division in February.

Now there are reports that Liberty Global, led by John Malone, is to buy the Dublin-based broadcaster.

It would then merge UTV Ireland with rival TV3, the Sunday Business Post reported. Virgin Media, which is owned by Liberty Global, acquired TV3 in December last year.

The launch of UTV Ireland last year led to losses of £13m for UTV Media plc - three times the original estimate.

There has also been speculation that Liberty Global could acquire ITV outright.

Darren McKinley, an analyst at Merrion Capital, said he did not believe a deal would happen.

"I don't feel that ITV bought into UTV Ireland for a quick flip," he said. "It will take at least one year for ITV to address any problems with UTV Ireland."

Liberty Global said it "will always consider strategic business opportunities in markets where it operates".

"That said, our policy is not to comment on media speculation and therefore we have no further comment to make on any matter," it added.

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