Bank talks as Crown is suspended

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SHARES in Crown Communications, the owner of the talk radio station LBC, were suspended at 6p yesterday as the group announced it was in talks with its bankers and a third party about its financial future, writes Jason Nisse.

David Whitaker, Crown's finance director, said it was hoped that the group could strike a deal in the 'very near future' in which its bankers, led by Bank of Scotland, would swap part of the pounds 15m of debt for equity in the company.

There is also a chance that a third-party investor will be brought in to inject funds into the group, though this investor would have to be vetted by the Radio Authority, the regulator of commercial radio.

The authority has indicated that it may have to step in if there is any concern about the financial strength of Crown's two London- based talk stations, LBC and Crown FM. It could revoke Crown's licences immediately.

Crown already faces the prospect of losing the licences for LBC and Crown FM. The licences will be re-advertised in March, although Crown's current tenure on them runs until the end of 1994.

The group is currently trying to complete a deal to sell an 81 per cent stake in its loss-making French radio network, RFM. The network was put under the control of a court-appointed director 10 days ago.