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NTL gains upper hand in C&W fight

Secures period of exclusivity for negotiations

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It looks like NTL has the upper hand in the race to buy Cable and Wireless Communications (CWC). Backed by France Telecom, it has negotiated a period of exclusivity in its £8 billion bid for CWC. Telewest also tabled a bid late on Friday, also said to be worth around £8 billion, but the one-time favourite looks like it is being left behind as NTL's offer is scrutinised by the Cable & Wireless board. Last week, NTL bought itself a 10 per cent stake in NTL (which cost $1 billion) and has pledged to invest a further $4 billion in the cable company. No end date has been set for the exclusivity period. In a separate announcement, NTL has acquired broadband cable franchises in Milton Keynes and Westminster from BT, covering about 210,000 homes. The company expects to invest another £15 million to upgrade the networks for digital cable, interactive services and high speed internet access. Once the upgrade of the Westminster cable network is completed, NTL will lease the networks from BT for around £3.9 million a year. ®

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