Yorkshire admits LWT bid

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The Independent Online
THE cat-and-mouse game between the commercial television companies intensified yesterday, as Yorkshire-Tyne Tees Television was forced to announce formally that it had received a bid approach from London Weekend Television.

The announcement followed talks between YTTV and the Takeover Panel, which was concerned by increasing speculation surrounding the company's intentions following remarks made by its chairman, Ward Thomas, on Monday.

But it is understood that the panel has not put pressure on Anglia Television to show its hand. Anglia has been touted as a possible buyer for the Tyne Tees franchise, as a merged LWT/YTTV would have to divest one licence under the broadcasting rules, which allow one company to own a maximum of two franchises.

Granada responded to the YTTV announcement by reiterating its argument that its pounds 600m bid for LWT offered better value to shareholders.

Alex Bernstein, Granada's chairman, said: 'It would appear that LWT has accepted our case that scale is essential to compete effectively in the future.'

He addded that LWT shareholders faced a straight choice between a merger with Granada, which he described as one of the strongest leisure and media companies in the UK, or with loss-making Yorkshire, with its high licence payments.

Gerry Robinson, chief executive of Granada, said that any combination of LWT, YTTV and Anglia would still face higher licence payments to the Government than an LWT/Granada combine. But an LWT spokesman said LWT's management would act in shareholders' interests, as they owned 10 per cent of the company.

Sources close to Granada said the LWT management probably valued running their own company more than the value of their holdings. It is understood there would be no role for LWT's chairman, Sir Christopher Bland, if the bid succeeded, although Granada would like to keep LWT's chief executive, Greg Dyke.

LWT's defence document is expected to be published before the weekend. The deadline under the Takeover Code is next Monday.