Grade grumbles about BSkyB

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Michael Grade has given his first hint that ITV is concerned about BSkyB’s 17.9 per cent stake. ITV’s submissions to Ofcom, the Office of Fair Trading and the Department for Trade and Industry, which are reviewing the investment, have “noted the concern that BSkyB (as a competitor) may be able...to block a shareholder resolution requiring a 75% majority,” he said this morning. This may not be in the interests of ITV’s shareholders as a whole, Grade said, adding that ITV’s board would “continue to act in the interests of all shareholders”. ITV’s annual results, out today, were as weak as expected and Grade has had a good dig at previous management. We’re seeing Grade today and will tell you plenty more about his plans in tomorrow’s paper.

Intriguing stuff from Resolution. Its chief executive, Paul Thompson, is leaving abruptly. The company, which is struggling to sell itself or merge with someone else, is not saying anything about why, which is shameful for a FTSE 100 company. The falling-out may be personal: the rumour has long been that Thompson, the former boss of Britannic, didn’t see eye to eye with Clive Cowdery, the chairman and Resolution Life’s founder. The news seems to have lit a fire under the shares, which are up more than 3 per cent. Paul Murphy and Neil Hume discussed some of this on FT Alphaville’s Markets Live today.

Another CEO on the way out is Gordon Cameron at Acambis, the vaccine maker. No explanation here either but the share price may hold some clues: it has been downhill more or less all the way since mid-2003. Today, the shares jumped 7 per cent.

Jacques Gounon, chairman of Eurotunnel, said that trading in its shares, suspended last May, was likely to resume within the next 10 to 15 days following the release of its delayed accounts for 2005 and 2006. The accounts are the first ones since 2004 and, because of the restructuring, are hard to make sense of. The key number is the operating margin, up from 55 per cent to 59 per cent in the last year.

Sportingbet has confirmed Neil Hume’s rumour yesterday, reported here in the blog, that it has received a takeover approach. It hasn’t said from whom but Neil heard it was from Bwin of Austria.

Melrose, the engineering group, has generated some good looking numbers and sees this as a vindication of its half-way house strategy between private equity and the public markets. One to watch.

Carillion, the UK-based services and construction group, reported a 31 per cent rise in full-year pre-tax profits to £67.6m and said last year’s £350m acquisition of its smaller rival Mowlem had proved to be “significantly earnings enhancing...rather than earnings neutral”.

Finally, a good story from the FSA, which remains concerned about the amount of insider trading (or “informed trading” as it rather coyly puts its) before takeover announcements. FT Alphaville has details.

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