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`Mail' buys 20% of ITN in forced sale

The Daily Mail has bought a 20 per cent stake in ITN, maker of ITV's News At Ten, it was announced yesterday.

In a joint statement, Granada and Carlton Communications said they had each sold a 10 per cent holding in the company to the Daily Mail and General Trust (DMGT) for a combined total of pounds 20.4m. The move was forced upon them by the 1990 Broadcasting Act, which limited to 20 per cent individual shareholdings in the news provider which services ITV, Channel 4 and the soon-to-be launched Channel 5.

The ITV companies said they were disappointed at having to sell their investments but were "delighted to be selling their shares to another professional news organisation".

ITN will now be jointly owned by Carlton (20 per cent), Granada (20 per cent), DMGT (20 per cent), Reuter (18 per cent), Anglia TV and Scottish TV (5 per cent each). The remaining 12 per cent will be owned by a Carlton/Granada joint venture company, set up to hold their excess shares.

The reduction of Carlton and Granada's ITN stakes has been a long-running saga. The deadline for their sale was originally 31 December 1994, but was later extended by 12 months. As the second December deadline loomed, Carlton and Granada proposed to the Independent Television Commission that they each put their excess 16 per cent of ITN shares into a deadlocked joint venture company.

In December this took place, with neither company able to vote on the shares, thus avoiding the need to sell them cheap to meet the deadline. It was from these shares that the DMGT sale was made.

Last year ITN had a turnover of pounds 89m and made a pounds 15.3m profit in the year to last December.

The DMGT said that the purchase, which will be paid for in cash, was made through its Harmsworth Broadcasting Division. Sir David English, who chairs the division, will represent the trust on the ITN board.

"I am delighted to announce our purchase of this shareholding in ITN. News is our business and we look forward to developing a valuable partnership with ITN and its shareholders," Sir David said.