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ITV to buy UTV's television stations for £100m

UTV Media has agreed to sell its television assets to ITV for £100 million, subject to regulatory and shareholder approval.

The deal excludes its radio stations, which include UTV Radio GB and UTV Radio Ireland, and its digital media businesses.

If approved, ITV said the deal would further strengthen its free-to-air business and mean the broadcaster owns 13 of the 15 regional licences for the Channel 3 network.

ITV chief executive Adam Crozier said: "We have a long-standing relationship with UTV, which has been the leading commercial broadcaster in Northern Ireland for many years thanks to its strong regional identity and blend of excellent local programming and strong network shows."

ITV said the transaction would be financed through existing cash and debt facilities.

UTV Media's television assets achieved total revenue of £34.7 million and operating profit of £6.6 million in 2014. However, the broadcaster posted lower profits in its half-year results this August.

Belfast-based UTV was the first commercial television channel in Ireland when it launched as part of the ITV Network in 1959. It has been in local control since then.

UTV Media plc has said it is one of the most successful media companies in the UK and Ireland, incorporating radio, television and new media.

Some of Britain's best-known TV personalities began their careers on the station, including Sky News anchor Eamonn Holmes, who started in 1979 by hosting a programme on farming.

Former UTV broadcaster-turned-leader of the Ulster Unionists, Mike Nesbitt, has warned Northern Ireland needs a strong local independent television station to offer competition to the BBC.

The company also owns a series of radio stations in Ireland and Britain, including TalkSport, which it retains.

The firm has operated in Northern Ireland since 1959 and launched a station in the Republic of Ireland in January.

But the new Dublin station has struggled to find an audience.

UTV broadcasts many of Northern Ireland's most popular programmes.

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