October 13, 2009 / 7:22 AM / 8 years ago

UPDATE 3-ITV bond buys time as advertising slump eases

* Coupon 4.0 pct, conversion premium 40 pct

* Abandons sale of SDN, to use as asset backing for pension

* Sees TV advertising sales down 3 pct in October, November

* Shares up 8.2 percent (Adds details of completed bond offer)

By Paul Hoskins

LONDON, Oct 13 (Reuters) - ITV (ITV.L) raised 135 million pounds ($213 million) in a convertible bond issue on Tuesday to relieve the burden of looming debt repayment deadlines and said the advertising downturn was easing, lifting its shares as much as 9 percent.

Britain’s biggest commercial free-to-air broadcaster, struggling to find a new chairman and chief executive, also moved to plug a gaping hole in its pension fund and reiterated it had no plans raise money by directly issuing new shares.

“We view all of these developments positively,” Numis analysts, who have a ‘hold’ rating on the stock, said in a note. “The current board reiterates its comments that it has no plans for a rights issue, though we retain our view that a new management team should raise equity.”

ITV shares, which have lost more than half their value since mid 2007, were up 6.8 percent at 50.55 pence by 1600 GMT, having risen as high as 51.75 pence.

Already grappling with falling revenues, rising competition and what it sees as a regulatory strait-jacket, ITV said on Monday its search for a new leadership team had suffered a fresh setback, with two contenders for the post of chairman ruling themselves out. [ID:nLC270508]

Whoever takes on the role may face a slightly easier environment than many had feared, however, after ITV said the rate of decline in television advertising had continued to ease during the second half of 2009.

Revenues from advertising at its family of channels were expected to fall by about 3 percent year-on-year in October, ITV said, predicting a similar level of decline for November. That compares with a 15 percent drop in the first half of the year.

Numis said the projected performance was better than it had been expecting and raised its full-year pretax profit forecast by 20 million pounds as a result.

    BREATHING SPACE

    The broadcaster, home to shows such as Coronation Street and X Factor, also scrapped plans for the sale of digital terrestrial channel operator SDN, saying it now planned to use the business to bolster its pension fund.

    ITV said it was in early talks with trustees about forming a partnership under which SDN would provide asset backing for the pension fund whose deficit ballooned to 538 million pounds at the end of June from 178 million at the end of 2008.

    The convertible bond, due in 2016, was priced at 70.44 pence a share, representing a 40 percent premium on the weighted average price of ITV’s shares from launch to pricing, the company said. The coupon was set at 4.00 percent.

    “ITV intends to use the proceeds of the offering to extend its average debt maturity, diversify the company’s funding and increase the efficiency of the balance sheet,” ITV said.

    Credit Suisse and UBS were joint bookrunners.

    $1 = 0.6333 pound = 0.6767 euro Additional reporting by Paul Sandle; Editing by David Cowell

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