United News & Media in HTV takeover bid

LONDON — United News & Media is attempting to extend its ITV empire by launching a takeover bid for HTV, the regional ITV station for Wales and western England.

The cash bid values HTV at £371.7 million ($620 million), a healthy premium of 27% above the company’s stock price. The offer is supported by HTV’s board.

United, which currently owns two ITV stations, Meridian Broadcasting in southern England and Anglia TV in southwest England, already holds a 29.8% stake in HTV.

The announcement of its bid for HTV almost certainly means United has decided not to contest Granada Group’s attempt to take over Yorkshire Tyne Tees TV, the ITV company in northeast England in which United holds a 14% stake.

At Granada’s current offer price, United will net around $165 million from selling the stake, more than twice what it paid less than two years ago.

These maneuvers mean that the ITV network, Britain’s most-watched web, will come under the even tighter grip of three companies — Carlton Communications, Granada and United — with a fourth, Scottish Media, controlling the station’s presence in Scotland.

The acquisition of HTV also will mean that United takes over ownership of First Independent Films, one of the U.K.’s leading indie theatrical distribs.

“HTV is a long-established and respected broadcaster with strong roots in the communities of Wales and the west of England,” said Roger Laughton, chief exec of United’s broadcasting and entertainment arm. “In recent years it has developed a successful rights business, Harvest. United is keen to maintain and develop HTV’s broadcasting and rights business.”

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