ITV took the value of its disposal programme to almost £500 million after agreeing to sell its stake in Irish commercial broadcaster TV3.

The £70 million sale of ITV's 45 per cent holding involves a deal with private equity firm Doughty Hanson, which is buying the rest of the business.

Proceeds from the proposed transaction will be used to fund ITV's current programme of returning around £500 million to shareholders.

That is approximately the same figure raised by ITV from the sale of non-core assets since the company's creation from a merger of Carlton and Granada in 2004.

ITV, the UK's biggest commercial broadcaster, has been focusing on cutting costs and selling non-core operations.

It is bidding counter falling advertising revenues at its flagship ITV 1 channel as viewers switch to new digital stations.

The company said yesterday: "ITV will continue to focus on its core UK broadcasting operation and growing its revenues outside ITV1 advertising through developing its UK and international production and distribution businesses and its consumer operations."

The disposal programme has been overseen by chief executive Charles Allen (left).

Allen recently announced plans to step down following a disappointing advertising and share price performance at the broadcaster.

The impact of disposals helped the company deliver a 12 per cent rise in half year profits. Earlier this month, the broadcaster said net television advertising revenues for the first nine months of 2006 were set to fall eight per cent compared with the same period last year.

ITV held its interest in TV3 through its 45 per cent stake in CanWest Granada Media Holdings, the Irish broadcaster's holding company.