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Last Updated: Monday, 7 November 2005, 12:54 GMT
ITV 'eyes up Friends Reunited'
Charles Allen, ITV chief executive
ITV boss Charles Allen is keen to diversify as ad revenues are weak
Broadcaster ITV is hotly tipped to be nearing a takeover deal for Friends Reunited, the website which brings together old school friends.

According to press reports, ITV is examining the company's books and could sign a deal as early as this week with an estimated price tag of 120m.

If an agreement is signed, husband and wife founders Steve and Julie Pankhurst could net about 30m between them.

ITV and Friends Reunited declined to comment on speculation about a deal.

The website has more than 12 million registered users and profits have ballooned as the business expanded to offer genealogy and internet dating services as well.

Branching out

Created by the merger of Carlton and Granada last year, ITV controls more than half of the UK television advertising market.

It is believed that Friends Reunited has attracted strong interest from traditional media companies keen to develop more platforms in order to bolster sagging advertising revenues.

BT, News Corporation and Daily Mail & General Trust are also rumoured to be in the running to bid for Friends.

This is not the first time takeover overtures have been made to the website's owners.

But rather than take the bid route, in March 2003 Friends opted to fund expansion through a management buy-in instead.

Former Financial Times executive Michael Murphy then joined the company as chief executive.

Since then the company appears to have changed its mind.

This summer, the management team brought in corporate finance firm LongAcre to explore takeover proposals in greater detail.

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