Gotcha! MacKenzie buys radio stations

Kelvin MacKenzie, the former Sun editor turned radio tycoon, expanded his Wireless Group yesterday with the acquisition of three local stations.

The news came as shares in the radio sector soared, the stock market reacting to the news, announced on Friday night, that Emap had bought a 29 per cent stake in Scottish Radio Holdings from SMG.

Analysts said the Wireless and SRH deals had highlighted the likelihood of consolidation in the radio sector, with much of the attention focusing on GWR, which closed up 11 per cent at 327.5p. Industry sources suggested the company could receive a bid from Daily Mail & General Trust, which already has a 29.9 per cent stake.

"Now that DMGT has been thwarted on the Telegraph, its attention has turned to GWR. They did not have the firepower to do both," one City financier said.

DMGT had been interested in buying The Daily Telegraph and The Sunday Telegraph but these titles appeared to have slipped from the group's grasp over the weekend.

In 2001, a cash crunch had led to Wireless, which owns the national talkSPORT station, disposing of two stations, Scot FM and Wave 105 FM. Analysts said the fact that the company was now making acquisitions was a sign of its changed fortunes - it has broken into profit.

Wireless already owned 16 per cent of Forever Broadcasting and yesterday it agreed to buy the remainder in a deal worth £8.1m. Forever owns three local radio stations in Chesterfield, Wolverhampton and the Bolton-Bury area. Mr MacKenzie, the chairman and chief executive of Wireless, said Forever was "a superb acquisition" that fitted well with its strategy of growing a profitable local radio group.

In the year to 30 September 2003, Forever made pre-tax losses of £4.8m against a £8.4m loss previously. Forever runs Peak 107 in Chesterfield, 107.7 The Wolf in Wolverhampton and Tower 107.4 in Bolton and Bury.

As well as flagship national station talkSPORT, Wireless already owned 13 local radio stations including Signal One in Stoke-on-Trent and Swansea Sound in south Wales.

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