Pearson looks for foreign TV station: Agreed bid for Thames values the programme maker at pounds 99m

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The Independent Online
PEARSON GROUP, the publishing and oil services conglomerate, yesterday said it intended to buy a Continental or Far Eastern television broadcaster as it announced its long-awaited agreed bid for Thames TV.

Pearson is bidding 200p a share for Thames, valuing the programme maker at pounds 99m. Thorn EMI agreed irrevocably to sell its 59 per cent stake in Thames. The bid is recommended by the independent Thames directors.

Pearson, best known for the Financial Times and Madame Tussaud's, plans to invest heavily in television. It already owns 14 per cent of Yorkshire-TyneTees Television and 17 per cent, some of it indirectly, of the satellite channel BSkyB.

Frank Barlow, managing director, said the company was actively looking to invest in broadcasting overseas. As a newspaper publisher - and now a programme maker - Pearson is restricted from UK broadcasting.

'It's a natural migration from newspapers to television. It's the same business - news, views, information and entertainment.'

The City mostly welcomed the move. Pearson shares rose 10p to 429p. Guy Lamming, an analyst with the stockbroker James Capel, said it was a good price for Pearson. As well as programme-making assets, Thames has a pounds 30m stake in SES, which owns the Astra satellite, and pounds 25m in cash. He lifted his 1993 profits forecast for Pearson from pounds 179m to pounds 182m before tax.

Thorn said the disposal would yield an exceptional gain of pounds 34.2m after transaction costs and deducting pounds 16.8m of goodwill previously written off. The cash from the deal would be used to cut borrowings.

Thames lost its London weekday broadcasting franchise to Carlton on 1 January, but remains a production company making programmes such as This Is Your Life and The Bill. It also has a lucrative library of old programmes such as The Benny Hill Show and Rumpole of the Bailey.

Pearson said Thames would lie at the heart of its new television division, which would expand internationally under the Thames brand name. Richard Dunn will remain chief executive of Thames TV, but it is not clear whether he will head the enlarged television division.

Thames shares rose from 175p to 195p.

(Photograph omitted)