ITV Investors Tune In To £200m Payout

ITV will underline the turnaround in its fortunes when it unveils plans to return as much as £200m of surplus capital to shareholders.

I understand that the commercial broadcaster will announce on Wednesday a special dividend alongside full-year results that analysts forecast will include a surge in pre-tax profits to more than £450m.

ITV's board, led by Archie Norman, the former Conservative MP who chairs the company, and Adam Crozier, chief executive, will meet early next week to rubber-stamp the proposed payout.

Insiders at the company, which broadcasts programmes such as Ant & Dec's Saturday Night Takeaway and Downton Abbey, said the scale of the special dividend - a one-off payment to investors - had not yet been decided. They added, though, that it was likely to be well over £100m and probably close to double that sum.

ITV, which is 7.5% owned by BSkyB, the parent company of Sky News, has seen its shares soar recently, partly on the back of speculation that the recently-agreed takeover of Virgin Media might trigger a bid approach for the terrestrial broadcaster.

The company's improved performance has been generated partly through efficiency savings introduced since Mr Crozier, the former boss of Royal Mail and the Football Association, took the helm in 2010. The economic downturn has had a less severe impact on the company than analysts and shareholders anticipated in the aftermath of the financial crisis.

The special dividend will still leave ITV in a position to spend money on acquiring independent TV companies to bolster its in-house production arm. It recently paid £25m for a controlling stake in Gurney Productions, a leading maker of reality shows for US cable networks.

ITV declined to comment.