TV-am gives up hunt for a new business

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The Independent Online
TV-AM, the breakfast television company, yesterday admitted defeat in its search for a new business to replace its lost broadcasting franchise. Instead it announced a bumper dividend of three-quarters of its reserves.

Although the statement fell short of total surrender, TV-am's senior managers privately acknowledge there is no future for the company. Some are expected to announce career moves within the next few days.

TV-am, which will stop broadcasting at the end of the month, said it would consider winding itself up in February in order to distribute the rest of its assets to shareholders.

The decision marks the final chapter for one of the most colourful companies of the 1980s.

Launched by a coterie of TV stars including David Frost and Angela Rippon, it was saved from collapse by the puppet Roland Rat, and then mourned by a 'mystified and heartbroken' Margaret Thatcher when it lost its licence.

It is withdrawing from the the Unlisted Securities Market on 4 January because the rules say that quoted companies must have a core business. It hopes its shares will still be informally traded on a 'matched bargain' basis.

Shareholders are to be paid a second interim dividend of 40p a share, costing TV-am pounds 26.7m. That compares to total distributable reserves of pounds 36.7m at the end of last year. It expects to offset pounds 8.9m of associated advance corporation tax against current and past tax bills.

It is now reduced to a 50 per cent share in Virgin Radio, a joint venture with Richard Branson, 17 per cent of Metro Radio in Newcastle-upon-Tyne and the freehold of its headquarters in Camden, north London.

Bruce Gyngell, chairman and managing director, said: 'Over the past year the board has considered a large number of other business opportunities, but has been unable to identify one which would represent a satisfactory core business.'

No final decision would be taken until February at the earliest. 'Assuming that no further investment opportunities have arisen, the board expects to recommend a liquidation or distribution of the company's assets.'

Guy Lamming, media analyst with James Capel, commented: 'It was what the City had been expecting. The management are doing the responsible thing.'

TV-am is writing to shareholders advising them to consider their tax positions: those not wanting the dividend should sell in the market before 14 December.

David Keighley, controller of public affairs, denied it was the end of the line for TV-am. 'We are still exploring options,' he said.

(Photograph omitted)