Granada prepares to raise LWT cash offer

GRANADA, the television to catering group, is preparing to raise the stakes in its hostile bid for London Weekend Television this week by increasing the value of its cash offer, writes John Murray.

It is understood that details of a revised offer have yet to be discussed but that Granada acknowledges the cash element of its pounds 735m bid has fallen further behind the shares alternative as Granada's share price has risen.

Granada's paper offer was worth 709p a share at Friday night's closing price, while the cash alternative is just 528p a share. Gerry Robinson, Granada's chief executive, will also look at including the group's final dividend as part of a sweetened offer.

Meanwhile, LWT confirmed yesterday that it would ask the Takeover Panel today to restart the bid clock, which was halted while the Office of Fair Trading deliberated on competition issues in the selling of advertising airtime.

The OFT will seek assurances from Granada this week over its advertising sales operations in the event of a successful bid. It may have to unscramble a contract under which LWT sells Yorkshire- Tyne Tees Television's airtime. Alternatively, it may suggest a deal whereby Scottish Television buys out Granada's 50 per cent interest in The Time Exchange, which sells airtime for Granada, Scottish, Grampian and Border.

Sir Christopher Bland, LWT's chairman, said: 'We want to get the bid out of the way so that we can get on with running the business and we see no reason for the thing to drag on.' He said reports of attempted 'white knight' deals with US companies were all speculation. 'We'll see Granada off on the basis of the existing financial arguments.'

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