SMG coy on Virgin Radio, Pearl & Dean sales

LONDON - SMG is remaining tight-lipped about the expected sale of Virgin Radio, making no mention in its latest financial results of an anticipated £60m sale to Absolute Radio.

Speaking to analysts after the unveiling of its full-year 2007 results, chief executive Rob Woodward declined to be drawn into speculation that a sale of Virgin Radio is imminent.
Its results statement said only that the disposals of its non-core businesses, Virgin Radio and cinema ad sales house Pearl & Dean, continue.

The company said: "Due to our position of financial stability, we are not in a forced-seller position and the board will only dispose of these businesses at the right price for our shareholders. While they are non-core, we do have the option of retaining them until the market conditions are more favourable."

Should the two disposals be completed, SMG will be left to focus on its television business, Grampian and STV, which form the bulk of the Scottish ITV licence.

Speculation has been mounting that Absolute Radio, an investment and consultancy firm founded by former Capital Radio executives and owner of several radio stations such as Oxford's Jack fm, was poised to gain preferred bidder status for Virgin Radio.

Yesterday, UTV, previously seen as the frontrunner to acquire Virgin Radio, publicly confirmed for the first time that it had lost out in the race to acquire the radio station.

Scott Taunton, managing director of UTV in Britain, told Media Week that the company had not been selected as preferred bidder.

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