Fear of BBC deters talkSPORT bidders

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The Independent Online

The UK's largest radio companies are shunning the auction of The Wireless Group (TWG), run by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, because they do not want to compete with the BBC.

The UK's largest radio companies are shunning the auction of The Wireless Group (TWG), run by former Sun editor Kelvin MacKenzie, because they do not want to compete with the BBC.

TWG, which owns talkSPORT, was put up for sale last week after a management buyout bid by Mr MacKenzie failed.

Radio companies are desperate to buy competitors to increase their market share. But most, including Chrysalis and Emap, have decided not to bid as the BBC dominates talk radio and owns the direct rival to talkSPORT, Radio Five Live.

Private equity groups 3i and CVC are among a handful of serious bidders planning to submit offers by Friday's deadline. One trade buyer is also thought to be bidding. The Local Radio Company and UKRD are interested in TWG's local radio stations but Goldman Sachs, which is running the auction, does not want to break up the company.

Stronger interest from private equity firms boosts the chances of Mr MacKenzie keeping his job as they would need a management team to run the group.

TWG is unlikely to be sold for much more than the 90p a share bid proposed by Mr MacKenzie, which valued the group at £100m.

The wave of consolidation in the radio sector began with the merger before Christmas of market leaders GWR and Capital Radio, renamed GCap Media. Other radio assets which could soon be acquired include SMG's Virgin Radio and Scottish Radio Holdings.

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