UTV expects to sell its TV business by March

It's nationwide Irish station has struggled to draw audiences

UTV expects to sell its TV business by March

UTV Ireland, Facebook

UTV says the sale of its television interests to ITV could take place as early as the end of February, subject to the approval of the Minister for Communication, as all other regulatory hurdles have now been cleared.

In a trading statement this morning, the company confirmed it will return £55m of the near £100m proceeds to shareholders via redeemable shares.

Looking forward, it plans to launch three national stations on the UK’s second digital platform and to deliver annualised cost savings of up to £5m over the next two years.

The media company announced its intention to sell UTV and UTV Ireland last year.

UTV Ireland's difficulties since in launched on New Year's Day 2015 have been well documented - it issued a series of profit warnings throughout 2015 as it struggled to find a foothold in Ireland's competitive TV market.

"The Group is expected to receive net cash proceeds, after transaction costs, of approximately €130 million from the sale, subject to a working capital adjustment," the company's statement said.

In continues: "The board intends to repay existing bank facilities in full and has put in place new bank facilities of £30 million (€40 million) for a four-year term beginning on completion of the sale."

After the sale of the television division, the remainder of UTV Media, which owns six radio stations in the Republic of Ireland, and the UK station TalkSport, will be rebranded under a new name.

Mary Curtis, the current head of UTV Ireland, announced earlier in this week that she will leave the channel next month.

She has described her year at the helm as exciting and challenging.