'Wife Swap' maker RDF Media plans £40m flotation

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The Independent Online

RDF Media, the television production company behind Channel 4's Wife Swap series, is planning to follow its rival Shed Productions to the stock market, with a valuation of at least £40m.

Assuming the Shed flotation - scheduled for mid-March - goes well, RDF will go for a listing in April or May.

RDF, which also made the Faking It series, has hired Ingenious Capital, the same financial adviser as Shed, to advise on its options.

Sagitta Private Equity, which owns 20 per cent of RDF, is looking to sell out. David Frank, the chief executive of RDF, said a flotation would enable it to buy others in the sector. Mr Frank, a former BBC reporter who founded the company in 1993, and other managers own more than 60 per cent of RDF. The company, which also has an base in Los Angeles, is expected to have revenues of £55m for the current financial year.

Sanjay Wadhwani, of Ingenious Capital, said a queue of independent production companies was waiting to list on the market. All eyes would be on the reception that investors give to the Shed float. Marketing of the Shed issue, which is likely to value the company at £40m, will begin shortly. "By the end of this year, there could be a number of production companies listed and they would form a sector of their own," Mr Wadhwani.

Among the most likely to follow Shed and RDF are larger independent television producers that are part-owned by private equity groups. These include All3Media, the business formerly owned by Chrysalis and now run by Steve Morrison, the former chief executive of Granada. It is backed by Bridgepoint Capital.

Another candidate is Hat Trick Productions, the company behind The Kumars at No 42 and Have I Got News for You. It is part-owned by Kleinwort Capital. Also possible is a listing by Mersey Television, which is backed by Lloyds Development Capital. It makes Hollyoaks and made Brookside.

Business conditions for independents have dramatically improved over the past year, following changes in the law which give them ownership of the rights to the programmes they make for television channels. The BBC has just committed itself to using more externally produced shows.

Aside from intellectual property companies, the two players in the production sector already listed are The Television Corporation and Ten Alps, a documentary maker part-owned by Bob Geldof.