STV has said it will “continue to pursue its growth strategy” after ITV unveiled a £100million cash deal to buy out the only other major independent channel 3 broadcaster UTV.

Analysts said the price for the TV business of the Belfast-based UTV was generous, but voiced doubts over whether STV would now become a target for ITV given current political sensitivities over London ownership of a Scottish broadcaster.

UTV had been seen as vulnerable after slumping to a first-half loss following its ambitious launch 10 months ago of its Irish republic station, which is expected to lose £11.5m this year. UTV Ireland is receiving £6m of investment in 2015 following an initial £3m outlay to set it up.

The deal will put 13 of 15 channel 3 network licences in the hands of ITV, with only STV’s northern and central Scotland licences outside its grasp.

STV shares jumped 10p to 435p, a rise of 2.3 per cent, while ITV shares were flat at 249.5p.

On the potential UTV sale, STV chief Rob Woodward said in August: “We are a Scottish-based company here to serve Scotland and deliver returns for our shareholders.”

Yesterday the company commented: “STV’s priority is to continue to create value for shareholders through the pursuit of our successful growth strategy.”

Analysts at Liberum said they did not think a final deal to unify the network was likely.

“We do not think ITV will make a bid for STV due to the political sensitivities of Scotland’s main commercial broadcaster being owned by London-based ITV plc,” they said in a note.

Citi meanwhile said ITV was paying “above the average transaction multiples” for UTV, which slumped to a loss of £3.3m in the first half after it launched its new channel serving the Irish republic.

Its analysts said cost synergies would make the deal broadly neutral for ITV’s earnings per share in the first year.

ITV has been on an acquisition spree since Adam Crozier took over as chief executive in 2010, although up until now it has focused on UK and US independent production companies.

Most recently, it purchased 75per cent of The Jump producer Twofour Group for £55m, after paying £355m in March for Talpa Media.

Mr Crozier said of the latest deal: “We are pleased that they are joining the ITV family.”

UTV will retain its radio businesses which include TalkSport in Britain and six radio stations in the Republic, and its digital media businesses. Its shares jumped 10.5percent to 184p after the announcement, which had been widely anticipated since UTV said it was in talks in August.

The Northern Irish broadcaster, which employs 140, is set to pass out of local control for the first time since it was created 55 years ago, and ITV will acquire the UTV brand.

Parent UTV Media says the sale will enable the continuing group to focus on opportunities within radio and online.

Richard Huntingford, chairman of UTV, said: “Having successfully extended the reach of our television business with the launch of UTV Ireland, I believe that shareholder value can be maximised through our television interests becoming part of ITV’s global broadcast and content business.” UTV posted revenues of £116m last year and a pre-tax profit of £17.2m.

Mr Huntingford said the £100m price tag “reflects the inherent value within the UTV Television business”.

But the Irish Times commented that ITV "has been able to get its hands on UTV’s television assets at a nice price precisely because of the difficulties facing the division, with UTV Ireland expected to post a £11.5 million loss this year".

It added that "for numerous reasons, audience numbers have been slower to build than the over-ambitious UTV Media expected".