City rakes in pounds 23m from LWT bid: TV company bullish on prospects as it announces estimated profit of pounds 44m

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The Independent Online
CITY coffers have been swollen to the tune of more than pounds 22m by Granada's hostile bid for LWT.

The television company's latest plea to its shareholders to reject the leisure group's pounds 700m bid reveals that its estimated legal and banking defence costs will be about pounds 6m. Granada is understood to have spent about pounds 16m - pounds 5m on advice, as well as a further pounds 11m on underwriting fees on its 520p cash alternative.

Greg Dyke, LWT's chief executive, said: 'You could make an awful lot of good television programmes with pounds 23m.'

He estimated that 40 hours of quality drama could have been produced for the costs of the bid. A typical drama such as Poirot costs in the region of pounds 500,000 an hour to produce while a popular programme such as Blind Date costs half that.

Mr Dyke made his observations as LWT revealed estimated pre-tax profits in the year to end December 1993 of pounds 43.8m, up 43 per cent, and pro forma earnings per share of 28.4p, up 50.3 per cent.

The figures were significantly higher than the market had expected, although they were stated before the bid costs, which will be treated as an exceptional item. Most of the pounds 6m involved is likely to be charged to 1993.

Sir Christopher Bland, LWT's chairman, painted a bullish picture of its prospects. LWT expects real advertising revenue growth this year and has hopes for increased returns from joint ventures such as GMTV, the breakfast channel which has had a rough start, and its rival, the loss-making ITV licence holder, Yorkshire Tyne-Tees.

Sir Christopher said that problems at YTTV, in which LWT holds 14 per cent and for which it sells advertising, had been largely resolved and the group was expected to return to profits in the current year.

The latest LWT defence document places considerable emphasis on the advantages to LWT of being a 'pure' independent television company in a fast-changing industry. It points out that European television companies have only been able to bid for ITV companies since 1 January and that newspaper groups are also likely to be allowed to expand into television in due course.

'We are now by a long way the largest quoted company in a dramatically changing sector,' Sir Christopher said.

LWT is also stressing its 'strong, focused and committed management'. Sir Christopher dismissed as 'bollocks' Granada's assertion that LWT's two key share purchases - in GMTV and YTTV - had proved poor investments.

The latest LWT defence document promises shareholders a final dividend of 10p a share, giving 1993 total dividends of 14p, up 184 per cent on 1992. Under Granada's offer, LWT shareholders would receive neither LWT nor Granada's final dividend.

LWT shares fell 2p to 673p. Granada's slipped 8p to 572p.

(Photograph omitted)

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