CRH, the highly-acquisitive Irish building materials group, has made its biggest acquisition to date: it is buying a US group called Ashland Paving and Construction in Atlanta for €1bn. We’ve known for a few weeks that the companies were in talks but this takes us a step further.
Belgravia Group has confirmed this weekend’s story that it is in talks about buying Newcastle United. The deal would be small (just over £60m) but it’s interesting that the bidder does not seem to be a deranged fan with more money than sense, or a US-based sports business whizz. Rather, Belgravia is a Jersey-based investment house with interests in telecoms, media, construction and hospitality. The club’s shares are up almost 5 per cent.
Contrary to our and other people’s expectations, we may not get news on Monday of Baugur’s bid for House of Fraser. Wednesday seems more likely now.
There is plenty to chase, though, on SMG, which is in merger talks with UTV. The Telegraph said this morning that SMG likely to reject that proposal and The Independent suggested that Rob Woodward, former commercial director at Channel 4, is preparing a private equity-backed bid.
On the subject of television, Emily Bell in the Guardian was very interesting on Monday, suggesting that the City knows nothing about telly. She says there are five good reasons not to listen to the City when considering who should succeed Charles Allen at ITV. In summary:
“1. The City does not know anything about television. If it did, it would not have lauded ITV Digital for quite as long as it did. [...]
“2. The City is no place to leave a solitary TV network out by itself after dark. It is like leaving your 13 year old daughter in Chinawhite with a bottle of Rohypnol and half a dozen Premiership footballers for company. [...]
“3. The very nature of the media industry is unsuitable for anyone (the City) that likes business to make sense (see point 2). It is attractive for its cultural influence as much as its bottom line, and its value is often based on qualities that are ephemeral in their nature. [...]
“4. The City, for somewhere that survives on electronic trading systems, is not very visionary when it comes to new technology. One can’t blame it after pouring all that money into dotcoms in the 90s [...]
“5. Imagine how terrible it would be if ITV’s chief executive were to be approved solely by the City. What ITV needs is much better programmes and a sense of creative bravado and a breathing space. [...] Strictly Come Banking is not - alas - going to save the schedule.”
I don’t know... I quite like the sound of Strictly Come Banking. Otherwise, you have to agree with Bell that the City has not always been the best allocator of capital in the media and tech industries. But her point that TV “is attractive for its cultural influence as much as its bottom line, and its value is often based on qualities that are ephemeral in their nature” sounds like a good reason for investors to steer well clear of it.
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