Heseltine clears way for Anglia TV bid

MAI, the financial services and media group run by Lord Hollick, cleared the final hurdle to its takeover of Anglia Television yesterday when Michael Heseltine, President of the Board of Trade, decided not to refer the deal to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

Mr Heseltine said he had accepted satisfactory undertakings from MAI about the sale of advertising airtime. MAI also owns Meridian, the ITV franchise holder for the south of England.

MAI will divest all or part of its share in sales houses and/or terminate sales contracts to reduce below 25 per cent the share of TV advertising revenue over which it will have control or significant influence after its acquisition of Anglia.

MAI has until the end of August nex year to complete the necessary arrangements. It has also given undertakings that it will not, without the prior consent of the Director General of Fair Trading, make further acquisitions or sign further contracts that would increase its share above that level. An MAI spokesman said the company had not decided how it would comply with the undertakings. 'The situation is fluid, and the continuing consolidation of the ITV market means we will have to wait to see how things shake out.'

Meridian owns 50 per cent of Merlin, which also sells advertising airtime for WestCountry Television, HTV and S4C. Anglia has a 43 per cent stake in TSMS, which is also the sales house for Central Television and Ulster Television.

The decision not to refer the agreed takeover to the MMC was expected after similar rulings in the Carlton/Central and Granada/LWT bids.

Mr Heseltine said the smaller regional ITV licensees might find it difficult to sell airtime economically if they were not able to do so alongside the larger companies. The undertakings contain some flexibility, and the Director General will consider sympathetically proposals to exceed the 25 per cent ceiling by a small amount if satisfactory selling arrangements cannot otherwise be made.

(Photograph omitted)

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