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Granada to launch LWT venture

Granada Group, deeply immersed in a bitter pounds 3.3bn takeover fight for Forte, will today announce a significant expansion of its LWT television subsidiary.

The plans involve LWT launching at least three new cable channels in a joint venture with BSkyB, the television company controlled by Rupert Murdoch in which Granada has a 10.8 per cent pounds 780m stake.

The three channels will offer drama, light entertainment and soap operas. Industry sources said the deal would involve back catalogues of programmes such as London's Burning.

There was a separate industry rumour that back editions of Coronation Street, produced through Granada, might form part of the package.

Media analysts said the deal was unlikely to have a direct bearing on the bid for the Forte hotels group, although it would highlight the revenue- earning potential of Granada's television businesses and its ability to reduce debts if its bid succeeds.

Granada's shareholders yesterday overwhelmingly supported the board's aggressive move launched against Forte three weeks ago. Only two out of 80 shareholders at the extraordinary general meeting voted against, and only 0.4 per cent of the millions of proxy cards sent in disagreed with the move.

Gerry Robinson, chief executive of Granada, used the meeting to launch a further attack against the "mismangement of Forte under the leadership of Sir Rocco Forte.

Forte yesterday announced the pounds 2.2m sale of a hotel in Liege and a successful planning appeal for the redevelopment of the Polygon hotel in Southampton. According to industry sources Forte will announce a much larger disposal by early next week.

City Diary, page 20