Cable giant NTL has today (December 6) confirmed it has "no present intention" of making an offer for ITV.
The announcement to the stock exchange comes three weeks after rival BSkyB bought a 17.9% stake in ITV for £960m in an apparent move to block any NTL bid. The cable firm, which had tabled a merger proposal with ITV, now says any deal was unlikely to be attained on "acceptable terms".
NTL, which counts Virgin supremo Sir Richard Branson as its largest shareholder following this year’s acquisition of Virgin Mobile, has complained to regulators about Sky’s apparent spoiler tactics saying it raised "serious" competition issues.
The statement read: "The fact that Sky would spend nearly $2bn (£1bn) to acquire its stake immediately following the mere announcement of NTL’s proposed combination, before the ITV board had an opportunity to respond, highlights the magnitude of the competition issues involved."
But Sky insists it has done nothing wrong in buying the stake: current UK media ownership rules mean the satellite broadcaster is prevented from controlling more than 20% in ITV.
ITV rejected NTL’s £4.7bn bid last month, saying there was little strategic logic for it to combine with NTL, and that the offer materially undervalued ITV.
NTL says it would now concentrate on integrating its NTL and Telewest cable businesses and the Virgin Mobile division. The company is set to change its name to Virgin Media early next year, as first revealed by Marketing Week (MW September 21).