City predicts victory for Granada in LWT battle

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The Independent Online
THE pounds 800m battle for control of LWT, the London weekend television franchise holder, enters its final phase this week with Granada confident of victory when its offer closes on Friday.

Most City analysts are predicting that the Granada bid, which values LWT at 785p a share compared with a current price of 745p, will be enough to win the day despite the continuing fierce resistance of the LWT board, led by chairman Sir Christopher Bland.

With 20 per cent of LWT already in Granada hands, its fate will be decided by a handful of City institutions, notably Mercury Asset Management, the fund management arm of SG Warburg, which owns 15 per cent of LWT and 16 per cent of Granada.

Observers believe that MAM has decided to accept the offer after receiving final presentations from the rival camps last week.

If it rejects Granada's offer of 13 shares and pounds 1 cash for every 10 LWT shares, MAM would almost certainly see the value of its holdings in each company fall sharply.

Gerry Robinson, Granada's chief executive, said last night: 'We have to be very confident for the simple reason that LWT is at the highest price it is ever going to reach and there is nobody else around.'

The underlying logic of combining the two franchise holders into one to meet growing competition could not be faulted either, he argued. 'There is not going to be a cosy 15-member alliance of companies any longer,' he said. 'The industry is going to be dominated by a few big players.'

Despite Granada's confidence, Sir Christopher still believes a late switch in City sentiment could maintain LWT's independence.

If he is wrong and LWT falls, Sir Christopher and his fellow directors stand to be pounds 50m better off on paper at least because of the controversial 'golden handcuff' scheme put in place at the end of the 1980s, under which 12 directors own nearly 7 million LWT shares.