Shares soar as US giant makes bid for More

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The Independent Online
SHARES in More Group surged 190p to 1024p yesterday - a 23 per cent leap - as the outdoor advertising group revealed a 1042.5p a share agreed cash bid from Clear Channel Communications, the US media giant.

The offer values More at pounds 446m, a 54 per cent premium to the average price of More shares in the 12 months before the announcement. However, the price is a premium of just 25 per cent over Wednesday's closing share price.

Last night, the Stock Exchange was understood to be investigating trading in More shares in the run-up to yesterday's announcement. In the previous two weeks, the shares had risen by more than 10 per cent, suggesting that news of the bid had leaked into the market.

Roger Parry, More's chief executive, said the two companies had been in discussions since Christmas. "At 1042.5p a share we could just not say no," he said. "It's a huge premium."

Mr Parry said the offer would create the largest outdoor advertising group in the world, with operations in 24 countries. In the past few years, Clear Channel has spent $4bn (pounds 2.42bn) acquiring companies in that market. The company, which is listed on the Nasdaq stock exchange, also runs 173 radio and 18 television stations.

More operates more than 90,000 fixed advertising panels around the world. It also specialises in other forms of outdoor advertising including public transport and bus shelters, and supplies other street furniture such as public lavatories.

Mr Parry insisted that the bid would lead to no immediate job losses at the group, which employs 1,000 people around the world. "There will be no redundancies and no change," he said, arguing that the bid was largely a way for Clear Channel to establish a presence in continental Europe. He said the company was also prepared to back further expansion by More. In November 1996, More spent pounds 78m on an outdoor advertising group in Sweden. It has also recently moved into Belgium and France. "Clear Channel will give us an extremely low cost of capital," sad Mr Parry.

Lowry Mais, Clear Channel's chairman and chief executive, said he was "impressed" with More's management team.

More will be able to use Clear Channel's network to build up its business in the US. Adshel, its display advertising group which supplies many of the bus shelters in British towns, has recently been battling for a huge pounds 1bn 20-year contract to supply all the outdoor advertising in New York City.

Mr Parry said that Clear Channel was not the first company to have approached More about the possibility of making a bid. But analysts said Clear Channel's offer, which values the shares at 24 times 1997 earnings, was unlikely to be bettered by a rival bidder.

The move came as More unveiled a 39 per cent increase in pre-tax profits to pounds 25.5m on sales up 41 per cent to pounds 144m. Clear Channel's bid includes the 12.5p final dividend, which will be paid to shareholders as normal.