TVS agrees pounds 38m bid from US 'family' cable group

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TVS Entertainment, the independent television company that is to lose its franchise on 31 December, has accepted a takeover offer worth about pounds 38.2m from International Family Entertainment, the American cable television network, it was announced last night.

Shares in TVS, which fell to just 3p earlier this year, were suspended at 18 3/4 p yesterday morning 'pending an announcement'. At the suspension price the business is capitalised at just over pounds 30m, including the preference shares.

IFE, based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is said to be one of the biggest cable operators in the US, with its Family Channel going into approximately 54 million of a possible 59 million homes. Up to about two years ago it was owned by the Rev Pat Robertson's Christian Broadcasting Network, but it is understood there is no formal connection now, although they operate from the same premises. IFE was floated in April.

The TVS deal is mostly paper, offering 0.041195 of new class B common stock in IFE for each TVS ordinary share, but there is a cash alternative of 23p per TVS share subject to scaling-down provisions.

It was not clear what intentions IFE might have for TVS, but one suggestion is that its chief interest is MTM Entertainment, the American television production company bought by TVS for pounds 190m in 1988.

MTM is best known for programmes such as Hill Street Blues, Lou Grant and Evening Shade, now running on Channel 4. Some - though not all - of its work would suit IFE's family format.

There had been speculation after the shares were suspended that a deal was to be struck with CBN. Earlier this year Mr Robertson withdrew a dollars 6m bid for United Press International, the financially troubled news agency, when it appeared that he might have to spend dollars 30m immediately to stabilise the business.

Directors of TVS were locked in a meeting during the day and declined to comment on speculation. But an adviser to the company agreed that the deal being negotiated would bring TVS 'closer to God'.

TVS lost its ITV franchise after bidding so much to retain it that the Independent Television Commission thought the company would meet financial problems.

Rudolph Agnew, the former Consolidated Gold Fields chief who chairs TVS, said he had slimmed the group so much that it could hold staff meetings in a taxi.