View from City Road: Anglia's TV partner will gain good reception

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The Independent Online
All credit to Lord Hollick's taste in broadcasters. Underlying assets such as a stake in BSkyB, worth perhaps pounds 20m, and a 17.5 per cent interest in Village Road Show, with a market value of around pounds 50m, have always made Anglia look among the most attractive of the ITV stations forced into play by the change in the broadcasting ownership rules.

Most rivals have to base their worth on the earnings stream to be generated by their limited-life franchises and the values (mostly hope) they attach to their programme libraries.

Granada was virtually forced to admit as much yesterday, as it stressed the highly tangible nature of Anglia's balance sheet as a way of justifying its failure to up the price it is offering for LWT.

Gerry Robinson of Granada presumably decided Anglia was too small to give him the critical mass to go eyeball to eyeball with Michael Green's Carlton/Central.

But that is a decision he may come to regret. Lord Hollick's timing means Mr Robinson is now under much greater pressure to sweeten his offer to secure LWT.

Equally important, by tying up agreed bids, both Lord Hollick and Mr Green are assured of the continuing loyal support of the management teams that created the companies they are buying. With its hostile approach, Granada seems destined to watch at least some of the millionaire talent it is buying walk off into the sunset. That remains the argument for using Granada's bid to cash in on an overrated sector rather than to swap an investment in LWT for one in Granada.

MAI, in contrast, looks a much more interesting prospect for those seeking a conglomerate with media interests. If successful, around 20 per cent of its pre-tax profits will in future come from broadcasting.

Anglia/Meridian is an excellent fit - although on the debit side Anglia lacks the programme library that many claim will be the seedcorn of the future. But the deal should not dilute earnings and is an excellent nucleus for expansion.

Meanwhile, the prospects for MAI's car finance business look interesting and its broking services have benefited from a buoyant City. The media circus may have some way to go. But Sir Peter Gibbings, Anglia's chairman, has chosen well for shareholders.