NTL denies seeking ITV Digital deal with Carlton and Granada

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The Independent Online

NTL, the UK's biggest cable group, has denied suggestions it is seeking to buy a controlling stake in ITV Digital, the digital terrestrial television platform owned by Carlton and Granada.

Responding to weekend press reports that a deal was being negotiated, Barclay Knapp, NTL's chief executive, said: "NTL has made no offer to acquire ITV Digital. ITV Digital's discussions with virtually everyone in the industry have been well documented as they have looked for a way to improve their situation. Although discussions such as these are regular in our industry, we at NTL remain completely focused on improving services, increasing revenues and reducing costs."

Carlton said that "no offer has been received". A source close to Granada added: "I'm certain there is absolutely no deal." It is understood, however, that the three companies have held talks about the future of ITV Digital, which last week was renamed from ONdigital. NTL is already a close business partner of the ITV companies since it owns the broadcasting infrastructure that distributes the regional Channel 3 signals across Britain.

Analysts note that Carlton, Granada and NTL could benefit from a link-up. ITV Digital, for example, could gain efficiencies from using NTL's call centre infrastructure, while the cable giant could benefit from a broader marketing presence offered by the digital terrestrial group.

Pressure for action to cap ITV Digital losses of £800m, expected to rise to £1.2bn, has seen the share prices of Carlton and Granada slump to five-year lows. NTL, with debts of $15bn (£11bn), has seen its stock tumble.

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