MGN picks up another 5% of STV

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The Independent Online
MIRROR Group Newspapers has lifted its stake in Scottish Television by 5 percentage points to the maximum 19.99 per cent it is allowed to hold under current media cross-ownership laws.

MGN, through its Scottish Daily Record and Sunday Mail subsidiary, snapped up 14.9 per cent last month. Yesterday it revealed it had bought 2.44 million more shares last Friday, again at 520p each, for pounds 12.7m. Its total investment in STV now exceeds pounds 50m.

It was widely believed that the initial purchase was a staging post to a full takeover bid should rules forbidding newspapers holding a controlling interest in terrestrial television stations be abolished.

But MGN refused to be drawn on the issue yesterday. A spokesman said: 'We cannot comment on hypothetical situations. We cannot comment until such time as there is a review of cross-media ownership.'

An STV spokesman said the additional purchase had been expected. 'Mirror Group Newspapers have reiterated their assurances of support for the company and its management,' he said, adding that MGN's latest foray was consistent with its previous statements of its aims.

MGN, which owns 28 per cent of Newspaper Publishing, owner of the Independent, has said it wants to explore ways of jointly developing its own and STV's operations for mutual benefit, and that it did not believe both companies had to come under common control to crystallise these benefits.

It is believed that even if cross- ownership regulations are relaxed any full takeover bid would be referred to the Monopolies & Mergers Commission.

In the year to December STV reported pre-tax profits of pounds 13.03m and net assets of pounds 47.4m.

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