Who Gets To Be A Millionaire?

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Who Gets to Be a Millionaire this Friday morning? The answer is Jasper Carrott and Paul Smith, if they aren’t already. The comedian and TV producer are among the beneficiaries from today’s sale of the businesses behind Who Wants to be a Millionaire for up to £111.5m. The show is being sold to 2waytraffic, an Aim-listed company set up by former Endemol executives. There have been mutterings that the questions got harder in the run-up to the sale in order to keep pay-outs down, but when Jeff Randall and I put this to Smith on Jeff’s Weekend Business show on Radio Five Live 10 days ago he denied it (sort of). Carlos Grande will explain all tomorrow.

The warm summer weather and the football World Cup helped Wolverhampton & Dudley increase full-year profits by 87 per cent, as the pub company plans to return an additional £100m to shareholders and prepares for the introduction of the smoking ban in England in July 2007. The group is also changing its name to Marston’s, one of its beer brands.

Prudential expects profits from the sale of new policies in Asia to at least double in the next three years, the UK’s second largest life assurer says. Just as well the Pru raised so much money from shareholders to invest in the UK market, then.

Fancy ice cream maker Hill Station, which ran into trouble with its acquisition of Loseley, has had to raise emergency funding from shareholders, a director and some private investors as it warns that the loss for the year to end-October will be “materially greater” than expected. A new executive, William Mapstone, has been appointed. He is putting up £1.1m in return for 42m shares. The suspension on trading of Downhill Station shares was lifted today. The stock fell 40 per cent.

Oriel Securities is trying to gain some attention for its media equity research by releasing its latest work as video and audio online and on MP4. I had a look (the password is “broker”) and thought I was guilty of a “user error” when I found some rather amateurish slides. So, I phoned the broker and discovered it wasn’t a mistake: it’s just not very sophisticated. I mustn’t be rude – it’s great to see people experimenting with new media – but I’m afraid Oriel will have to do better.

Rumour of the Day: Forth Ports shares, up 3 per cent this morning, are at an all-time high on fresh takeover talk.

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