Heseltine says LWT bid could get through

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The Independent Online
MICHAEL HESELTINE, President of the Board of Trade, gave the amber light to consolidation of the ITV network yesterday, when he indicated that Granada's bid for London Weekend Television and Carlton's for Central could escape referral to the Monopolies and Mergers Commission.

The Department of Trade and Industry said that referral was unlikely if the bidders gave certain assurances to the Office of Fair Trading about the arrangements for selling advertising airtime.

Meanwhile, LWT claimed that unscrambling Granada's and its airtime sales companies could cost Granada three or four times the pounds 10m quoted in newspaper reports. The two houses sell more than 40 per cent of ITV airtime by value. To reduce that significantly, Granada would have to break LWT's contract whereby its wholly owned sales house, Laser, sells airtime for Yorkshire Tyne-Tees TV.

Granada already owns 50 per cent of The Time Exchange, which sells airtime for Scottish TV, Grampian and Border, as well as for Granada itself.

'The undertakings might include divestment of interests in sales houses (which handle advertising for more than one channel) and might also relate to the selling arrangements for advertising by the merged licensees,' a DTI statement said.

Reports last night claimed that US West, the telephone company said to be in 'white knight' talks with LWT to help it ward off Granada's bid, had been refused clearance by the Takeover Panel