Chrysalis radio sell-off founders on price

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The Independent Online

Chrysalis, the media group, is struggling to sell its radio stations after prospective buyers balked at the asking price.

Chrysalis wants up to £200m for the stations, which include Heart, Galaxy and LBC in London, but interested parties have so far only offered around £150m.

The company, which reports its interim results tomorrow, is not expected to update the market on the progress of the auction. However, it is understood that a shortlist of trade and private equity buyers has been drawn up.

A banker close to the sale process, said: "No one on the list has so far shown any inclination to pay the £180m to £200m that Chrysalis is looking for. At that price the stations will sell at 15 times Ebitda [earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation]. That has to be regarded as a very rich price given the declining state of the radio industry in the UK."

Investment bank Hawkpoint is running the auction for Chrysalis.

Last week, Rajar, the body that monitors listener figures, said Heart FM, Chrysalis's flagship station with DJs including Jamie Theakston, had lost the number one spot in London to Emap's Magic. Total listening hours at Heart fell by a quarter to 11.6 million in the latest quarterly figures, while its overall audience share fell from 7.1 to 5.4 per cent.

Analysts at Numis said that Chrysalis's Rajar figures were "disappointing".

In a research note, the stockbroker said the company would struggle to secure its asking price for its radio assets.

"Although we regard the operations highly, in our view there is a shortage of natural buyers. This is likely to curtail disposal proceeds and we believe the group could retain the assets."

An executive with links to Chrysalis said the sale process was progressing as planned.

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