ITN seeks further talks on Carlton bid

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The Independent Online
THE BOARD of ITN last night decided to seek further discussions with the consortium led by Carlton Communications that is mounting a pounds 30m refinancing bid.

The board held a five-and-a-half-hour meeting to try to hammer out a strategy towards the offer, which some shareholders are viewing with suspicion.

The board set up a sub-committee, led by Richard Dunn, ITN chairman and head of Thames Television, that will handle discussions with the consortium and deal with any alternative proposals for ITN that appear.

The offer will be considered again on 29 October. Even if the board accepts the Carlton offer, there will have to be an extraordinary meeting of ITN shareholders.

The board, however, did agree a five-year contract with ITV for the supply of the regular daily news services such as News at Ten. Beginning on 1 January next year, this will be worth an average of pounds 53m a year, just below the price of pounds 55m- pounds 60m laid down by the Independent Television Commission, the industry's regulator.

The offer, made last week, comes from Carlton - which has won the London weekday franchise, holds 20 per cent of Central Television and 20 per cent of the new GMTV breakfast franchise - Central TV, LWT, and Reuters, the financial services and news agency. They have offered pounds 1 per share for each of the 300,000 shares in ITN plus pounds 30m in refinancing to deal with ITN's growing deficit. However, opponents say their planned 80 per cent stake is too high and that the consortium is swooping at the lowest point in ITN's fortune.