NEWS: ITV buyouts to start soon after passage of Broadcasting Bill

The expected takeover frenzy among ITV companies could begin as soon as the Broadcasting Bill receives royal assent at the end of this month.

The expected takeover frenzy among ITV companies could begin as soon as

the Broadcasting Bill receives royal assent at the end of this month.



Theoretically, companies will have to wait until three months after the

bill is given royal assent before they can put their acquisition plans

into effect. However, a loophole means that they may be able to make

their moves three months earlier than anticipated.



Companies can contravene the rules and pounce on their targets by

warehousing any shares they have in other ITV stations - or media

companies - that would take them above the 25 per cent legal limit

(Campaign, 17 May).



Warehousing is to be outlawed to prevent such rule-bending, but the

relevant clause is an amendment to the bill and will only come into

effect when the bill is passed in full in three months’ time.



The warehousing system was used by MAI when it merged with United News

and Media earlier this year. The merged operation’s newspaper interests,

which include Express Newspapers, are warehoused in a deadlocked company

until the Broadcasting Bill makes such cross-media ownership legal.



With the bill due to finish its parliamentary passage in the House of

Lords this week, media companies already know what they will be able to

own under the new rules. Because warehousing is still allowed until the

bill becomes law, there is no reason for them to delay their purchasing

plans.



United News and Media, Carlton and Granada are all thought to be

planning further media expansions once the bill has been passed.



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