GCap shares plunge after further loss of listeners

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The Independent Online

GCap, the UK's largest radio company, has lost further ground to rival Chrysalis in the London market, according to the latest audience share figures. The news sent GCap shares close to a record low, and heaps further pressure on the group's embattled chief executive, Ralph Bernard.

The poor audience share figures, compiled by industry body Rajar, follow last week's warning from GCap that the steady decline in advertising revenue looks set to worsen in July and August. Mr Bernard spearheaded the merger of GWR and Capital last year as a response to worsening market conditions.

However, his strategy to reduce the number of advertisements per hour on radio stations - but charge advertisers more for the radio time - appears to be failing on both fronts, as both audience share and advertising revenues decline at Capital. The combined company has lost half of its market value since it merged.

GCap operates the Capital, XFM and Classic FM stations in the UK. After losing its pole position in the key London market earlier this year, the company's Capital station lost further ground, according to the latest Rajar figures. Since the merger, Capital has lost 300,000 listeners in London and now trails Emap's Magic station, and Chrysalis station Heart.

Capital's market share has fallen to 5 per cent compared to 6.1 per cent a year ago as big-name presenters such as Johnny Vaughan have failed to win back listeners.

Steve Orchard, GCap media operations director, said the decline was anticipated, adding that its plans for the station remain "on track and we remain confident about its long-term prospects."

Investors, however, were less convinced, as shares in the company fell 0.5 per cent to 189.5p.

There were some plus-points for GCap, as Classic FM maintained its commercial share, while youth-oriented station XFM London achieved its highest-ever audience share. The number of people listening to GCap's digital-only stations increased to 768,000.

Meanwhile, Chrysalis celebrated a solid performance over the past year, increasing its London market share to 6.1 per cent from 5 per cent a year earlier as its key stations Heart and Galaxy grew market in popularity. Emap's Magic remained the most popular London station, despite a slight decline in market share.

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