ITV plc (ITVPF) may have added more fuel to the takeover speculation which has surrounded Britain's biggest private, free-to-air broadcaster Wednesday with news that its long-serving CEO, Adam Crozier, will step down next month.
"Adam has been talking to me and the Board for some time now about his future plans," said chairman Peter Bazalgette. "He has made a fantastic contribution to ITV and the Board is deeply indebted to him for his strong leadership and personal dedication in very successfully turning around the business."
The move may have more important implications for the takeover talk that has gripped the shares since Liberty Global (LBTYA) , its biggest shareholder, was thought to be building its stake in the company after a regulatory filing to the London Stock Exchange on March 31 indicated Goldman Sachs (GS) held 25% of ITV thanks to a series of derivative and contracts-for-difference trades.
Liberty said on March 29 that it loaned its 9.9% stake to Goldman Sachs, "but at the same time it has acquired an interest in an equal number of ordinary shares under that transaction as a result of the right to recall," according to a regulator filing.
Goldman's stake now sits at 22%, according to the most recent filing, but that reduction hasn't stopped speculation that a sale of the business could be on the cards.
"We do not see the (Crozier) news as sudden in nature nor indicating that ITV is facing major disappointments,"said Ian Whittaker at Liberum Capital. "However we do think this could potentially be a sign that ITV might be heading for a sale. Keep as Top BUY."