News Corp to take over radio stations in €266m deal

Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp is set to take control of a significant slice of Ireland’s commercial radio market after agreeing a £220.3m (€266m) takeover of Belfast-based Wireless Group.

The deal requires regulatory approval. It offers Wireless shareholders 315p per share, which represents a 70.3% premium on the Belfast group’s closing share price on Wednesday, the day before the proposed deal was announced.

A successful takeover would give News Corp control over a number of Irish radio stations including C103 and 96FM in Cork and Dublin stations FM104 and Q102.

In Britain, it would land the self-styled biggest sports radio station in the world in TalkSport.

The latter would also grant News Corp control of digital and audio rights to English Premier League football. News Corp owns titles including The Times, The Sun and the Wall Street Journal.

Shares in Wireless were up by 68% at 310p yesterday, before falling back slightly. The company split from the former UTV Media earlier this year.

Earlier this year, the group said it was anticipating growth in Irish radio advertising spend this year and a strong increase in its own profitability.

In its offer document, News Corp said it views the UK and Ireland as key markets. It also noted its change into a more digital and global company and said this deal could lead to further international digital expansion for its brands.

Its purchases of UK video advertisement technology company Unruly Holdings and Dublin-based social news agency Storyful were mentioned as examples of standalone businesses which have added value to the wider group and it said “the proposed acquisition of Wireless follows this trend”.

“There is no doubt that Wireless is a company reborn since the sale of its television assets last year and we are excited about its prospects,” said News Corp chief executive Robert Thomson.

“We plan to leverage Wireless’s portfolio of radio and digital audio sports rights – including the Premier League – in the UK, Ireland and beyond, through News Corp’s digital platforms. We believe the businesses together can be far more than the sum of their parts,” he said.

The head of News Corp’s UK business, Rebekah Brooks said the Wireless Group “represents an opportunity for us to take advantage of its strong radio presence [and] to build on our growing digital success story.”

A week after the UK voted in favour of Brexit, Mr Thomson said this plan marks “a clear sign of our commitment to, and belief in, the United Kingdom as a place to do business successfully and profitably.”


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