Chiltern looks for friendly suitor

BY MATHEW HORSMAN

Chiltern Radio management were still scrambling to line up a friendly suitor last night in their efforts to ward off the hostile bid by GWR, the regional radio holding company.

They were said to be reviewing all their options before issuing a formal statement later this week on the unwanted pounds 23m bid.

Options included canvassing for a "white knight" who could outbid GWR while allowing it to remain involved with the company after a takeover.

Although GWR has refused to comment, the bidder is thought unlikely to retain the current management structure at Chiltern since it already operates 20 stations with a streamlined central management.

Chiltern has nine regional radio stations in Britain, in areas that made the fit with GWR logical, analysts said.

Last year Chiltern recommended a 242p cash bid by CLT, the Luxembourg broadcaster, but it was turned down by several large shareholders.

GWR's offer is worth about 328p a share at last night's close, but the Chiltern management believe that this undervalues the company.

Analysts said yesterday that accepting one bid for 242p and subsequently rejecting another for 328p would be difficult to justify.

Sources close to Chiltern claimed that the Government's decision to lift radio ownership restrictions had increased the company's value.

They also pointed out that the earlier CLT bid had been all cash. GWR is now offering 2.38 new shares for every one Chiltern share.

Sources close to GWR suggested last night that the bidder was increasingly confident of success. Its support included an irrevocable commitment from Capital Radio to tender its 20 per cent stake and a "comfort letter" from the Daily Mail and European Management Associates covering a further 29.9 per cent.

Chiltern closed yesterday at 316p, up 8p on the day. GWR was unchanged at 138p.

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