ITV shares fall amid BSkyB stake acquisition

Shares of ITV fell almost 5% after British Sky Broadcasting Group became the broadcaster's biggest shareholder in a surprise move, dealing a blow to a fledgling takeover attempt, an Associated Press report said.

ITV shares fell 8 euro cents ($0.10) to 1.63 euros ($2.08) in early trading on the London Stock Exchange as investors reacted to BSkyB's announcement that it had acquired a 17.9% stake in the rival broadcaster, the Associated Press report said.

ITV was identified as a takeover target last week by cable company NTL, which plans to change its name to Virgin Media and offer broadband, fixed-line and mobile telecommunications services as well as television.

Virgin Group chairman Sir Richard Branson, whose company owns 10.7% of NTL, called BSkyB's move a 'blatant attempt to distort competition.'

He demanded Britain's Office of Fair Trading investigate and urged regulators to 'stand up to reckless and cynical attempts to stifle competition and secure creeping control of the British media.'

BSkyB dismissed Branson's comments, the report said.

The report further quoted BSkyB as saying that it has no intention of mounting a takeover bid for the rival broadcaster.