City & Business: Skids under LWT

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The Independent Online
WHICH way should shareholders jump as Granada's pounds 750m bid for London Weekend Television enters its final week? Mr Luard, I'm sure, will be amused to learn that his deal with HTV is being cited by Sir Christopher Bland and Greg Dyke, chairman and chief executive of LWT, as a good reason for rejecting the offer. Both the concept of the HTV deal and the valuation it places on the company back up the case for independence, they claim. Shareholders have no reason to worry about profits for the next year or two; cable operators and others will be falling over each other to form valuable alliances with the company. Even if this were true, however, I fear it's come too late to save them. It's still just about possible that shareholders, out of a sense of a loyalty to a management that's performed remarkably on their behalf, will stick with LWT, but it's much more likely that the prospect of an immediate 100p fall in the LWT share price if the bid fails will drive them to the opposite view. A key determinant will be the position taken by Mercury Asset Management, which has about 15 per cent of LWT. It also, however, has 15 per cent of Granada, whose share price will be knocked for six alongside LWT's if the bid fails. No prizes for guessing which way MAM will jump.

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