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RTL, which said this week it was not in talks with ITV “at the moment”, sounds like it is working on a bid for ITV after all. We think there may be more to this but we are seeing what we can find out. Media Guardian says RTL has not yet decided whether to make an offer to rival NTL’s approach. If RTL does bid, it may well have to sell Channel 5. And our media editor, Andrew Edgecliffe-Johnson, believes funding could be an issue as 90 per cent shareholder Bertelsmann has said its debt load would preclude any big deals until late 2007. Keep an eye on the FT.com homepage this afternoon for updates.
Stock exchanges remain our other big story again. The LSE’s shares, off almost 6 per cent yesterday, are down another 3 per cent this morning to below £12 as investors continue to digest plans for a group of large investment banks to set up a rival platform.
The LSE now looks more vulnerable than it has done in a long time, with the share price decline taking it more within the reach of Nasdaq, private equity bidders and Icap, with which talks broke off this summer precisely because of a disagreement on price. A handful of people look very smart for taking advantage of the high LSE price while they could: Threadneedle, UBS and Scottish Widows for example. And Macquarie, remember, abandoned its 580p-a-share hostile bid partly because it believed Mifid would undermine the position of exchanges.
On the subject of the LSE, Ed Balls told a gathering of international securities regulators in London this morning that legislation would be put forward today to allow the Financial Services Authority to veto rules governing exchanges and clearing houses.
The other big story is National Grid’s plan to demerge - for which read “sell” if a decent offer comes in - its mobile phone masts and broadcast business. Analysts reckon it could be worth £3bn and we’ll try to tell you who might want it. The group also announced plans to sell its Australian electricity interconnector business and return $1.9bn to shareholders. The shares rose more than 5 per cent.
I’m sorry about this, but we have a story about a bunch of estate agents getting rich. They’re floating Your Move, which was an MBO from Aviva in July 2004. Six executives put in just £1m at the time. Five of them will now reap a total £18m from the sale of shares while keeping another £52m of stock, or about one-quarter of the business. The sixth, Andy Mohum-Smith, is selling his entire £12m stake and retiring. Actually, it’s a great story: we’ll tell you more about these entrepreneurs in tomorrow’s paper.
In the same general area, Crest Nicholson, which recently turned down a bid approach from HBOS and Sir Tom Hunter, has issued a strong trading update.
Reed Elsevier, the publishing group, warned today that revenues would be “broadly flat” at its US-based Harcourt Education subsidiary. It said Harcourt had been hit by weaker textbook markets and an underperformance in its assessment division, which tests schoolchildren. Something to break the ice then next week when I have dinner with chief executive Sir Crispin Davis and his newish chairman Jan Hommen. Reed shares are off 4 per cent. Euromoney’s full-year figures look decent.
Strong interims from Vedanta. Shame about the problems in Zambia that we reported exclusively on this morning and which have forced it to shut down some copper production. The shares are off 7 per cent.
Rumour of the Day: Raw gossip of 640p a share private equity bid for Cadbury Schweppes. It’s been around before but the stock is up 1.7 per cent today on the rumour. Check out FT Alphaville’s Markets Live discussion for more.