Scottish Radio Holdings has hired Greenhill, the corporate finance boutique, as a financial adviser, fuelling speculation that it is preparing for a £380m bid from Emap, which could come as soon as this month.
Speculation about the bid is now reaching fever pitch in the City, with some even suggesting a date - 16 November - the day that media group Emap announces its interim results.
Emap, which owns the Kiss and Magic radio brands, as well as consumer magazine and business publication divisions, bought a 27 per cent stake in rival SRH in January. It is one of the big three radio operators, but the recently announced merger of the other two - Capital Radio and GWR - has left it as a very distant second.
Any move by Emap now could mean that its purchase of SRH would be considered by competition authorities in parallel with the proposed Capital-GWR deal.
David Goode, who succeeded Richard Findlay as chief executive of SRH at the beginning of October, confirmed that he had hired Greenhill, whose recent assignments include advising the retailer Debenhams and the healthcare group Warner Chilcott when both groups attracted takeover bids.
Mr Goode, however, denied that Greenhill had been brought on board specifically to help meet a bid from Emap. "This is part of the normal course of events ... part of our on-going review of all our advisers," he said.
Paul Richards, an analyst at Numis Securities, said that if Emap bought SRH, it would probably sell off its target's local newspaper division, which could fetch some £150m.
Miranda Acland, Emap's communications director, said: "It [the SRH holding] is a strategic stake and we are quite prepared to play the long game."
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