Astral eyes Standard stations

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TORONTO -- In the latest sign of industry consolidation, Canadian broadcaster Astral Media Inc. on Friday said it has entered exclusive talks to buy 52 radio stations belonging to Standard Radio Inc.

An acquisition, if it happens, would make Montreal-based Astral the largest Canadian radio broadcaster, with 81 stations.

Astral said in a statement it has signed a letter of intent with Standard Radio, which is controlled by the Slaight family of Toronto now looking to cash out after four decades in the radio business.

The move follows the failure of Astral, controlled by Montreal's Greenberg family, in two previous takeover attempts in the last year, first for rival broadcaster Chum Ltd. and most recently for Alliance Atlantis Communications Inc., which was picked up by CanWest Global Communications Corp. and Goldman Sachs & Co.

Astral put no price tag on Standard Radio, which is valued by financial analysts at around CAN$1.1 billion. The broadcaster said it would finance the possible acquisition with 80% in cash and the rest in Astral non-voting shares.

"With the acquisition of Standard Radio, Astral Media will not only be acquiring the best performing radio stations in the country, we will at the same time acquire a company with similar values and culture," Ian Greenberg, Astral president and CEO, said.

Gary Slaight, president and CEO of Standard Radio, and the son of company founder Allan Slaight, said in his own statement that Astral had a "strong track record" and his family would be "pleased to see our legacy live on with a company such as Astral."

Both parties said they had no further comment until a formal agreement was signed.
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