Watch: Piers Morgan quits ITV show after Meghan comments
Shares in broadcaster ITV (ITV.L) fell on Wednesday morning, seemingly in connection with the departure of morning show anchor Piers Morgan.
ITV shares fell as much as 4% on Wednesday and were still down 3% in London by 9.50am.
The slump followed news on Tuesday night that Piers Morgan would depart ITV's flagship breakfast programme Good Morning Britain (GMB) over comments he made about Meghan Markle.
Morgan on Monday said he "didn't believe a word" of what Meghan said in her interview with Oprah Winfrey. The comments drew criticism from mental health charities given the fact that Markle had confessed to suicidal thoughts during the interview.
Morgan walked off a live GMB broadcast on Tuesday, following criticism from his co-presenter Alex Beresford. Morgan's departure from the show was announced later that day.
Neil Wilson, chief market analyst at Markets.com, said ITV's early share price weakness could be linked to Morgan's departure.
"Are they down because of this event or just amid his departure?" he said. "Investors may be a little worried about the loss of ratings for GMB – it wasn’t exactly doing that well before he joined and its primetime slot will have repercussions for ads. Love or loathe, Morgan boosted ratings.
"It could also be that investors are worried about an investigation over comments made by Morgan on air."
Ofcom, Britain's broadcast regulator, has launched an investigation into Morgan's comments after receiving over 41,000 complaints from viewers, Sky News reported.
Morgan defended his conduct on Twitter on Wednesday morning.
"On Monday, I said I didn’t believe Meghan Markle in her Oprah interview," he wrote. "I’ve had time to reflect on this opinion, and I still don’t. If you did, OK. Freedom of speech is a hill I’m happy to die on. Thanks for all the love, and hate. I’m off to spend more time with my opinions."
The decline in ITV's share price came a day after the company reported annual results. UBS said the numbers were "stronger than expected". Barclays upgraded its share price target for the company on Wednesday and Deutsche Bank said it rated the stock a "buy."
Watch: Why UK TV Host Piers Morgan Left Good Morning Britain