Carlton seeks guidance on a bid for HTV

Carlton Communications, Michael Green's media conglomerate, has sought informal guidance from television regulators about its plan to bid for HTV and Westcountry, the ITV licence-holders for Wales and the west of England.

The move marks the clearest sign yet that Mr Green seeks to expand further in the commercial television market in the UK, following liberalisation of ownership rules under the new Broadcasting Act. If Carlton goes ahead with the takeovers, and if Granada moves, as expected, to acquire Yorkshire- Tyne Tees, the northern ITV franchise holder, two companies will end up owning half the ITV licences in the UK.

Granada, the media and leisure giant, already holds the licences for London Weekend and the North-west of England, while Carlton owns the London weekday and Central licences.

According to informed sources, Carlton sought indications from the Independent Television Commission about whether the 25 per cent limit on share of television advertising would be rigorously applied. Carlton's sales house already accounts for about a quarter of all ITV advertising slots.

It is understood that the ITC will hold fast to the ceiling, but has conceded that the launch of Channel 5 early next year is likely to reduce the advertising share accruing to Carlton, thus freeing it to expand further.

A bid for HTV has been expected for several months, but Mr Green has made it clear he does not intend to over-pay. Takeover speculation has pushed HTV's shares sharply higher in the past year. They closed on Friday at 336.5p, equivalent to more than 30 times expected 1996 earnings.

Granada, too, has held back from making a full bid for Yorkshire-Tyne Tees, which is currently trading at well over pounds 12 a share. It is expected that the two predator companies will wait to see whether the takeover premiums attached to HTV and YTT subside in coming months.

A bid for HTV by Carlton could be accompanied by an offer for Westcountry, media analysts speculated over the weekend. Indeed, it is considered possible that HTV may bid for Westcountry on its own before a Carlton approach materialises. That possibility was thought to be behind Carlton's request for ITC guidance on both HTV and Westcountry.

Westcountry, owned by the Daily Mail & General Trust, Brittany Ferries and South West Water, has appointed Lazard Freres, the merchant bank, to help it prepare for a possible flotation. However, the Independent has learned that Lazards has approached other ITV companies about engineering a trade sale. Lazard executives visited HTV on Friday to discuss the possibility of an agreed bid for Westcountry.

HTV and Westcountry together represent about 8 per cent of total ITV advertising sales. Their ad business is handled by TSMS, the sales house owned by United News & Media, Lord Hollick's print and television conglomerate.

Carlton has attempted to take advantage of HTV's dissatisfaction over its arrangements with TSMS by suggesting it could do a better job of selling HTV's advertising time. A Carlton sales insider insisted late last week, however, that any deal to shift HTV's business from TSMS to Carlton would only be possible once Channel 5 was up and running.

"The rules wouldn't allow us to do it now," the source said. "In any event, such a deal would be made redundant by a takeover of HTV by Carlton."

UNM was a wild card in the current climate, media analysts said. "It cannot afford to lose the HTV and Westcountry business," said one.

As a consequence, Lord Hollick might also emerge as a bidder for HTV, in a bid to safeguard its ad sales arrangements.

"He will want to emerge as the second bidder," said one senior ITV source. "The best scenario for Hollick is to wait for Carlton to move, and then to present himself as the white knight."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
people
News
A survey carried out by Sainsbury's Finance found 20% of new university students have never washed their own clothes, while 14% cannot even boil an egg
science...and the results are not as pointless as that sounds
News
politicsIs David Cameron trying to prove he's down with the kids?
News
Cumberbatch was speaking on US television when he made the comment (Getty)
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Client Services Manager - Relationship Management - London

£30000 - £32000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, int...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller / Customer Service

£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This rapidly expanding business...

Guru Careers: In-House / Internal Recruiter

£25 - 28k + Bonus: Guru Careers: An In-house / Internal Recruiter is needed to...

Recruitment Genius: Tax Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Tax Assistant is required to join a leading ...

Day In a Page

Woman who was sent to three Nazi death camps describes how she escaped the gas chamber

Auschwitz liberation 70th anniversary

Woman sent to three Nazi death camps describes surviving gas chamber
DSK, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel

The inside track on France's trial of the year

Dominique Strauss-Kahn, Dodo the Pimp, and the Carlton Hotel:
As provocative now as they ever were

Sarah Kane season

Why her plays are as provocative now as when they were written
Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of a killing in Iraq 11 years ago

Murder of Japanese hostage has grim echoes of another killing

Japanese mood was against what was seen as irresponsible trips to a vicious war zone
Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

The enemy within

People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

Autumn/winter menswear 2015

The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

Army general planning to come out
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea