GWR and Capital hold talks over possible radio merger

Capital Radio and GWR have held informal talks over a possible merger, the first signs of consolidation in the radio sector since the recent draft Communications Bill.

Reacting to reports that it had held talks with GWR, Capital said: "Capital Radio holds informal discussions from time to time with other interested parties. Capital Radio would expect that, as the Bill progresses through the consultation and legislative processes, such informal discussions will continue."

Speculation has focused on talks between Capital, GWR and the Daily Mail & General Trust about a possible carve-up of GWR. DMGT owns a 29 per cent stake in GWR, the owner of Classic FM and 31 local radio licences.

The draft Bill will allow UK radio companies to acquire one another and opens the way for US operators to buy into the sector.

The talks coincided with GWR's results for the year to 31 March, in which it unveiled revenue down 5.4 per cent to £113.1 million. Its pre-tax profit fell 63 per cent to £7.7 million. GWR also unveiled plans to sell its overseas interests in Europe and Australia.

GWR revealed that its advertising revenues had fallen 7.2 per cent over the year. Between January and March, its ad sales were down just 1.9 per cent on the same period in the previous year.

Ralph Bernard, the executive chairman of GWR, said: "GWR has developed a clear strategic plan to strengthen its balance sheet and address the outstanding opportunities in the UK. This plan recognises that the Bill, if it becomes law, will change the environment for commercial radio."