Flextech confirms SelecTV talks

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The Independent Online
Flextech, the cable and satellite programmer, yesterday confirmed it had held talks with SelecTV, the independent television company currently for sale, and that "it and its advisers continue to monitor the position closely".

Confirmation of its interest, first revealed in the Independent on Tuesday, may have been one factor in the delay to a heavily-trailed bid for SelecTV from Pearson, the media giant that is preparing a pounds 45m offer.

It emerged last night that Pearson's bid will almost certainly be put off until the new year. It was speculated yesterday that Flextech could make a formal offer in early January, and then request access to SelecTV's accounts and adequate time to perform due diligence.

A source close to SelecTV, however, said yesterday: "So far they have not offered us anything we are interested in."

Flextech is believed to be discussing an all-share deal, under which it would swap its stock in Scottish Television in return for a controlling stake in SelecTV.

Pearson's advisers have been reviewing the accounts since early last month. An informal deadline of the middle of this week proved impossible to meet, and the two sides will resume discussions after the Christmas break.

Pearson is offering cash, but its bid is contingent on the sale of SelecTV's loss-making cable channel and its 15 per cent stake in MAI, the ITV licence holder for the south of England. The rump, consisting of SelecTV's programming library and its production companies, would then cost Pearson a net pounds 10m.

SelecTV has a successful track record producing independent television programmes for the UK market. In addition to its trademark Birds of a Feather, it has been responsible for such series as Auf Wiedersehn, Pet and Shine On Harvey Moon.

It has also made series starring Tracey Ullman, the actress-wife of Allan McKeown, SelecTV's chief executive.

The company last night supplied details of the relationship between Ms Ullman's own company, Mabellino, and SelecTV. For the current series, Tracey Takes On, SelecTV has put up an advance to secure worldwide distribution rights for10 years. Mabellino, with a licence fee from HBO, the US broadcaster, will make the series.

That marks a change from previous arrangements between Ms Ullman and SelecTV, when the UK company was responsible for the production.

The change brings the relationship between the series star and the production company into line with American practice, where such distribution and production deals are more common.