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London Weekend TV, US West mum on talks

LONDON — Some U.K. media analysts are skeptical about the attractions of broadcaster LWT Plc. to a “white knight” U.S. investor.

London Weekend TV wouldn’t comment on reports US West is discussing taking a stake to help it fight off a bid from Granada Group Plc.

US West, which has 50% of 23 U.K. cable television franchises, also declined comment.

Repellent regs

Analysts say rules blocking investors from outside the European Union from taking a controlling stake in ITV network broadcasters are likely to put off white knights.

The Independent Television Commission, the commercial TV watchdog, says a controlling stake would probably be more than 30%, but there is no set figure because it depends on the individual share structure of the company.

Another hurdle is U.K. “concert party” rules, which say two groups with more than 30% are obliged to make a full bid.

A company acting together with LWT executives, who control about 9% of their company, could be seen as forming a concert party, analysts said.

Panmure Gordon analyst Anthony de Larrinaga said companies seeking access to U.K. program-making expertise or program libraries could find either cheaper outside LWT.

Hundreds of independent program makers looking for investment would be cheaper than LWT, he said.

NatWest Securities analyst Belinda Clifton said she could not see the attraction of LWT for a U.S. company that could buy access to program libraries cheaper at home. “LWT’s program library is pretty good, but it’s not great,” she said.

Granada is offering six of its shares for every five of LWT’s, with a cash alternative of T5.52 ($ 8.25).

LWT shares closed up a penny at T6.68 ($ 10). Granada also finished a penny higher at T5.52 ($ 8.25).

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