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Much to the disappointment of investment bankers and private equity bidders around town, the Goldman Sachs-led attempt to seize control of ITV has failed. The bidders, who also included Apax and Blackstone, sweetened their proposals last night by adding a 44p cash alternative to the previous plan. This had involved shareholders getting 86p a share in cash and retaining 52 per cent of the company. ITV said the new proposal represented only an 11 per cent premium to the undisturbed share price, which was not enough to give up control. Goldman & co have walked. Apart from the obvious attraction of winning control cheaply, what was interesting about the structure to bankers and private equity executives on the sidelines was that it would have been a way of making big companies smaller and overcoming investors’ fear of losing out if they sell to private equity. The model isn’t dead for ever, but it needs to be offered on better terms next time. We’ll do more on this in Saturday’s paper but you can read Lex online now.
As for what’s next for ITV, check out the last line of its statement: “the Board has recently announced proposals to return an initial £300m of capital to ITV’s shareholders and is continuing to evaluate the optimal capital structure of the company.” Stand by for more cash. This is why the shares are only off 4½ per cent.
We’ll do more tonight on the FSA’s discussion papers on new disclosure rules for holdings of shares and contracts for difference. The regulator has floated the idea of raising the disclosure level for shares above the current 3 per cent to 5 per cent, but not with any conviction. Indeed it seems to be going through the motions for the sake of European harmony and that nothing will come of this. This is just as well as, quite rightly, the City hates it. More controversial is the FSA’s suggestion that it will not propose extending the 3 per cent disclosure level to CFDs. Here, the City is divided between institutional investors, who want CFDs treated like shares, and investment banks, who like the greater anonymity CFDs afford.
Tonight we conclude our New City series, which has been running all week. Paul Murphy is pulling together a fabulous piece about up and coming people in the City, which is bound to be controversial. If you disagree with our (not remotely comprehensive) list, you will be able to post your own comments on FT.com. In the meantime, catch up with useful data and our pieces from the week, see what our our panel has to say about hedge funds, have a play with the interactive map or join the lively discussion about whether the City is the world’s leading financial centre.
We are also planning a feature analysing the prospects for mergers and takeover among the mortgage banks. This follows the week’s speculation that Crédit Agricole of France tried to buy Alliance & Leicester. The bank’s shares, up again a little today, have risen 7 per cent this week.
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