The news set light to shares in ITV companies. The biggest groups, like Granada, Carlton and MAI, were widely tipped to gobble up medium-sized companies such as LWT, Anglia and HTV.
Some form of relaxation had been expected and some companies already had plans in place - Granada, for instance, had already taken a stake in its target, LWT.
Within a week Carlton had persuaded Central's board to support it in an agreed pounds 758m bid, sending its shares soaring 405p to 2,573p. Another week saw Granada bid pounds 600m for LWT, though eventually it had to pay pounds 800m.
Rumours of a bid for Anglia, widely thought the most attractive available ITV company, had circulated throughout December, with the most likely candidate thought to be MAI, the media group run by Lord Hollick, which already controlled the Meridian franchise.
Anglia, which had lobbied hard against the rule relaxation, had tried to maintain its independence, but on 18 January MAI announced that it had reached an agreement.
MAI's offer to pay pounds 292m was more generous than had been expected and sent the share price up 180p to 664p, making millionaires of the top management at Anglia who held share options as low as a quarter of the offer price.
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