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UK's SMG Says Gets New Merger Proposal from UTV

Scotland-based SMG said on Monday it had received a new approach from Northern Irish peer UTV regarding a possible nil-premium merger of the two broadcasters.

"As a result SMG has entered into discussions with the UTV board which may or may not lead to a merger," SMG said in a statement, adding it had suspended its search for a new chief executive.

"I'm slightly surprised that they're talking about a nil premium merger," Anthony de Larrinaga of SG Securities told Reuters.

"The fact that they're prepared to enter into discussions on the basis of a nil premium merger is certainly a major change from what we've seen before ... so I think it concerns the level of additional pressure that's been brought to bear on the board."

In August SMG rejected an approach from UTV that would have given SMG shareholders a 52 percent stake in the combined company. UTV said in September it had ended merger talks with SMG due to weak advertising markets.

UTV said in a separate statement it had approached SMG on Nov. 23 and that there was no certainty that an offer would be made.

SMG, owner of Virgin Radio, said good progress was being made on the disposals of Primesight and cinema advertiser Pearl & Dean and discussions with its lenders were proceeding well, as were talks with its pensions trustees regarding future funding.

SMG Chief Executive Andrew Flanagan abruptly resigned in July, having come under fire from investors unhappy with the company's performance.

Shares in SMG, owner of most of Scotland's commercial TV network, were up 3.5 percent at 58-3/4 pence by 1020 GMT, valuing it at around 185.4 million pounds ($362 million).

UTV shares were down 1.6 percent at 380-1/4p.