pounds 60m bids unveiled by GWR

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The Independent Online

Media Editor

GWR, the fast-growing regional radio company, yesterday launched a pounds 24.3m recommended bid for East Anglian Radio, and announced it was applying to the New Zealand government to buy 75 per cent of Radio New Zealand for a price not to exceed pounds 37.9m.

The balance would be held by New Zealand financial institutions, the company said.

To help finance the two bids, GWR is launching a rights issue to raise as much as pounds 36m. It has already received acceptances representing 63.8 per cent of East Anglian, the company said in a statement yesterday.

The company's shares dropped 5p to 246p, on news of the rights issue. GWR is offering 10.5541 shares for each East Anglian Radio share, worth pounds 25.50 a share. There is a cash alternative of pounds 23.46 per share.

Last year, GWR fought hard to win Chiltern Radio, a competing commercial radio company. It confirmed early this year it would expand aggressively, both in the UK and overseas.

Radio is the fastest growing advertising medium in the UK, according to industry figures. Last year, total advertising revenues grew to pounds 270m, from pounds 220m a year earlier. Audience figures have also moved sharply higher in recent years, overtaking BBC Radio early in 1995.

This robust performance has already led to significant consolidation, as bigger groups such as GWR move in on the competition. The Broadcasting Bill is expected to ignite a further wave of takeovers, once national newspapers are allowed to own radio licences outright.