UTV – the media world’s equivalent of Rebecca Loos…

9 10 2007

Like Rebecca, the local radio giant is desperate to hop into bed with a big name. And like Rebecca, the local radio giant likes potential partners with around £200m in the bank.

With UTV radio so brazenly flouncing around the marketplace looking for acquisitions, staff at Bobballs were pleased to see UTV chief executive John McCann out shaking the money-maker. He really must have shaved his legs and plastered on the lipstick ahead of his hot date with The Times. Because he scored. Big time.

According to John – Michael Grade is wonderful (give me some TV content); we must compete against the BBC (the licence fee is anti-competitive and destabilises the market); we would like to own Virgin (I’ll eat you for it); and let me price it for you (£50 million).

He got it all in. The Times article appears just weeks before a potential SMG sell off. Which is nice. UTV are also in the chase for Emap Radio. But at £400m Emap won’t happen for UTV (which has a share valuation of £215m) without a major partner.

UTV’s media portfolio is at present split equally between TV and radio. With Emap and Virgin coming into the market, the local company will soon be in danger of running foul of the trade descriptions act if it continues to operate as Ulster Television. Still, nice to see a local company in the vanguard of an expanding media sector.

So why is UTV committing more and more to radio? Maybe it’s finding new ways to maximise revenues from the radio business. Maybe it’s Million 2-1 game-bling (gambling) that gets loads of repeat plays and multiple bids at… erm… £1.50 per play.

All this talk of acquisitions probably isn’t doing its share price any harm either. UTV issued dividends payments on October 5 which were up, as were pre-tax profits. UTV’s capital value is up, its borrowing power is high, and – like Rebecca Loos – it’s ready to do the business with someone providing the money’s right.

Exciting times for one of Northern Ireland’s top businesses. Can UTV hop into bed with a big-name player that’s got £200m in the bank? (And can they do it without Frank Mitchell? Please. Ed.)

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