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Denis O'Brien Buys Eight UK Radio Stations

Communicorp Group, Ireland's largest commercial radio station company, has acquired eight regional radio stations from Global Radio in the UK. The stations, with 2.8 million listeners combined, are Smooth East Midlands, Smooth North West, Smooth North East, Capital Scotland, Capital South Wales, Real Radio North Wales, Real Radio Yorkshire and Real XS.

Under a brand licensing agreement with Global Radio, Communicorp intends to re-brand the 'Real' stations under the 'Heart' franchise and plans to re-launch the 'Smooth' stations following the reintroduction of local programming.

The move into the UK follows Communicorp scaling back its activity in eastern Europe. Over the past two years the group has disposed of 25 stations in Finland, Estonia, Czech Republic and Hungary. It is still active in Bulgaria and Latvia, as well as Jordan.

In Ireland Communicorp is commercial market leader through its ownership of Today FM, Newstalk, 98FM, Spin 103.8, Spin South West and Phantom. Group turnover on 2012 was €58m with a net loss of €35m booked after a €39m write-down of goodwill.

Communicorp ended 2012 with bank loans of €79m and €54m owed to principal shareholder Denis O'Brien. The directors' report filed last October stated that €9m of bank borrowings had been repaid in 2013, with total deleveraging from January 2011 to October 2013 amounting to €90m.

Global Radio is best known for its Heart and Capital stations in London and made an operating profit of £37m on turnover of £220m in the year to March 2013.

Last May the UK's Competition Commission ruled that Global should dispose of a number of its regional stations following its £70m takeover of GMG Radio in June 2012. Global appealed that ruling and lost in November. (06/02/2014)

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