Emap could launch SRH radio station bid within a week

LONDON - Media giant Emap, owner of Kiss and Magic radio stations, is expected to launch its takeover bid for Scottish Radio Holdings' 22 radio stations and 43 local papers within a week.

Emap, which already owns a 28% share in the Glasgow-based company, is believed to be preparing to take the remaining stake within a week after reshuffling senior radio executives, a move seen as a precursor to a deal.

Emap recently promoted Shaun Gregory to the role of managing director of national brands, while current managing director of radio programming Mark Story is handing over responsibility of Kiss FM and Magic to Gregory, indicating he will be involved in sealing the deal and looking after the new stations should the bid be a success.

Gregory, previously Emap Performance's director of development and and before that a senior Ofcom executive, is overseeing stations Kiss, Magic, Kerrang! Smash Hits, Q, Heat, The Hits and Mojo. He will also continue to be responsible for Emap Radio's digital plans and the radio development team.

At the same time, Travis Baxter was promoted to the role of managing director of Big City, taking on the role of managing director of Emap's eight Big City stations across the north of England.

Emap paid Scottish Media Group £90m for the 28% stake in SRH in January. If the deal goes ahead before January 2005, Emap will have to offer SRH the same price it payed for the initial stake -- in excess of £300m.

Last month saw Capital Radio and GWR Group agree to a £711m merger and it has long been anticipated that deregulation of the radio market would lead to mergers in the industry, with Emap and the smaller SRH being the next to combine.

The takeover is seen as a good move for Emap because there is no geographical overlap between SRH's radio stations, including Radio Clyde and Radio Forth, and Emap's London, Manchester, Birmingham and Newcastle-based interests.

An Emap spokeswoman could not comment on the proposed deal but said: "Emap has always positioned itself as a buyer rather than a seller but we will only do the right deal at the right time and price."

Emap's current radio interests include Kiss FM and a number of stations based on magazines such as Smash Hits, Mojo and Kerrang!.

Analysts believe that if the deal goes ahead Emap will want to sell SRH's newspapers business, which could spark a huge bidding war across the UK and Republic of Ireland.

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