As a precursor to an offer, Emap, which owns 29.7 per cent of Trans World, has secured the assent of Owen Oyston, the socialist millionaire who has a 22 per cent stake. He has irrevocably agreed to accept a bid from Emap at 181p in the period up to 22 June, notwithstanding any higher offer.
Emap is negotiating with the Trans World board to try to win its support. However, the radio company told shareholders to take no action while it sought clarification from the Radio Authority, the commercial radio regulator, on the consequences of a bid.
Trans World is understood to be concerned about the regulatory aspects of an Emap purchase, as well as the position of its other major shareholder, the Guardian newspaper group, which has 20 per cent.
The deal would almost double Emap's pounds 40m investment in radio - it owns London's Kiss FM and Radio City in Liverpool and has stakes in radio stations around its East Anglian heartland.
At present, radio licences are separated into several classifications, with no group allowed to hold more than six category A and B stations. After the deal, Emap would have eight such stations.
Emap said the Radio Authority had already approved its proposals for dealing with the problem. It refused to elaborate but said these would probably include selective disposal of some of the licences.
One of the attractions of the deal is that the combination of Emap's Liverpool station with Trans World's Piccadilly Key and Gold Manchester-based stations and the Preston-based Red Rose Rock and Gold stations would give a coverage similar to that of the Granada television stations.
As a result, Emap would be likely to dispose of geographically peripheral stations, such as Trans World's Cardiff-based Radio Aire and Magic stations, or to restructure its radio holdings so it could no longer be said to control some of its stations.
The Guardian, interested in expanding its radio interests, is unable to mount a counter offer for Trans World because current rules bar national newspapers from owning more than 20 per cent of a local radio station.
The Government is reviewing those rules as part of its review of cross-media ownership. Trans World's shares closed up 2p at 177p.
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