Emap target of share-ramping campaign

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The Independent Online
EMAP, THE international magazine publisher and UK radio broadcaster, has been the target of a campaign by an anonymous individual or group intent on bolstering the company's share price.

An anonymous note circulated to The Independent over the weekend, and to at least one other national newspaper, claimed that Emap had "rejected three approaches to buy the company".

The note, faxed to The Independent early on Sunday morning, said: "Expect news early this week from Emap regarding the matter."

It added: "The party's [sic] who are believed to be involved are News International [and] United News & Media."

News International, publisher of the Sun and The Times, is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. The company is one of Europe's biggest publishing companies, but it is currently more interested in developing its online interests and extending the dominance of the pay-television giant BSkyB, in which it holds a 40 per cent stake.

United News & Media, headed by Lord Hollick, chief executive, would be seen as a more likely suitor for Emap. However, the group is temporarily hamstrung by debts of pounds 1.2bn and is still digesting its $900m (pounds 560m) takeover of CMP, a US publisher.

Emap, for its part, refused comment on the matter. However, sources close to the company said that no bid approaches had been received or solicited.

The anonymous note concluded that the suitor, having being rebuffed, would turn aggressive. "Emap is expecting a hostile takeover bid after rejecting these low key bids."

What is conspicuous about the note is its timing. Since hitting an all- time high of 1,418p in early March, Emap's share price has slid more than 30 per cent amid concerns that the men's magazine market in Britain has peaked.

Emap publishes FHM, which with sales of more than 700,000 is Britain's biggest selling monthly magazine.

Yesterday Emap stock shed a further 6p to fall to 985p on light trading volume of 1.06 million shares.

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