(Bloomberg) -- ITV Plc topped a list of the most likely European acquisition targets for a second year running, showing that expectations of a takeover haven’t faded after a tough 2017.
The U.K. broadcaster appeared on the mergers and acquisition watch lists of seven out of 20 event-driven traders, analysts and fund managers surveyed by Bloomberg. That put it equal at the top of the rankings with Aeroports de Paris.
ITV bid speculation has been sustained by the presence of U.S. cable company Liberty Global Inc. as the company’s largest shareholder. The broadcaster is prepared for any potential offer, Finance Director Ian Griffiths said at a conference in November, when asked whether John Malone’s Liberty might make a move. The stock has since rallied about 10 percent from the lowest levels in about four years.
Aeroports de Paris, majority owned by the French state, is also a favorite of M&A desks. A French official said in December that the government hadn’t yet decided whether it will privatize Aeroports de Paris, but added that any airports sale mustn’t hurt carrier Air France-KLM Group. Earlier this month, Vinci SA CEO Xavier Huillard said his company was potentially interested in the airport operator.
Imperial Brands Plc and Shire Plc came in a close joint third in the survey. The former ranked highly despite recent comments from Japan Tobacco Inc.’s chief executive that he favors deals in Southeast Asia and markets where the company lacks a presence rather than a more complex purchase, signaling a much-speculated tie-up with Imperial is less likely.
Shire’s shares have fallen nearly 10 percent year-to-date, with Jefferies speculating that tax reform in the U.S. could possibly lead to another bid. AbbVie Inc. and Shire agreed to terminate what would have been the biggest U.S. tax inversion deal in October 2014 after AbbVie pulled its support in the wake of proposed changes to U.S. rules governing such transactions.
Survey participants named 110 companies as possible targets, including AstraZeneca Plc and Meggitt Plc in the U.K., Akzo Nobel NV in the Netherlands and Spain’s Cellnex Telecom SA.
Click here for the complete survey results.
Several stocks included in last year’s predictions have since been acquired, are in, or have been in merger talks. These include: Akzo Nobel, Aveva Group Plc, Buwog AG, Banco Popular Espanol SA, Bovis Homes Group Plc, Clariant AG, Com Hem Holding AB, GKN Plc, Ladbrokes Coral Group Plc, Stada Arzneimittel AG and Worldpay Group Plc.
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