View from City Road: Who's watching Yorkshire TV?

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The Independent Online
What goes on at Yorkshire Tyne Tees? The broadcaster's share price has more than doubled since the begining of the year. The amount of actual trading in the shares has been relatively modest, but speculation has mounted over who might have designs on the company.

Stake building ahead of a move by Granada, if LWT escapes its clutches, seems highly unlikely and counter-productive, given that LWT is now citing Yorkshire's soaring share price as a reason that investors should shun the conglomorate.

Pearson, which already has a big stake, might see scope for a deal with Granada over shares in Yorkshire currently held by LWT if the latter were to fail to retain its independence.

Yet Pearson is still caught by cross-media ownership rules. Any changes must be at least a year away.

Emap is also a possible player. But so far the group has been too sensible to squander money on expensive ego-boosting sprees. The pounds 185m price tag would also give Emap indigestion.

That leaves Gus Macdonald's Scottish TV which would like to reinforce its position at the table when the thorny question of rejigging airtime sales arrangements is mooted.

But, like LWT, Scottish would have to find some way of splitting Yorkshire and divesting Tyne Tees to keep within the current rules - no easy task.

It would make more sense for it to play a long game, which might see a full merger in due course when the rules are further liberalised.

Unfortunately, the likeliest solution of all to current share price activity is the least exciting. The surge in the value of television company share prices, caught a number of arbitrageurs napping.

They would undoubtedly like to think that in troubled Yorkshire they have spotted the last opportunity to ride the coat-tails of the great media re-rating. Whether they have done so only time will tell.

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