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NTL is definitely up to something

3,000 jobs to go, and leaking results

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Cable company NTL is up to something and we'll find out exactly what on Thursday. The company has been leaking details of its business plans over this bank holiday weekend in time for its Q1 results announcement on Thursday morning.

Late on Friday it seeped its plans to cut 3,000 jobs - adding to the general trauma of working in the IT industry. It has also spoken of trying to raise £500 million with a convertible bond from its NTL Communications arm - this will become a share in NTL itself in 2008.

The stock is to keep the business going for three years, the job cuts are to help NTL save £200 million in the next two years. There are likely to be more job losses as well.

It has also been telling folk what its results are going to be, causing some peculiar wording in financial reports because it ain't real til it's announced officially. What we're being told is that results are expected to be in line or slightly above expectations - the most lame expression you'll ever hear in the markets.

Basically this means NTL will announce a big pre-tax loss but a positive operating cash flow. The figures are: Q1 revenue of $907m (£633m), up from $853 million Q4 last year; earnings before interest, tax etc etc of $125m up from $93 million in Q4 last year.

The CEO Barclay Knapp has also been waffling on about the company's "stated strategy" and "focus" without actually saying very much.

So what?, you say. The directors are just forewarning the market of some bad events that are coming at the same time; it's trying to keep major shareholders happy (especially France Telecom). Maybe. Maybe.

It could be that it is clearing the path for a major announcement or that it is trying to get a largely positive press for its results just before a major deal is put together. We're not the only ones suspicious - rumours are now abounding that NTL is working on a plan with AOL/Time Warner - which, if you think about it, would make great sense for both parties.

We shall see. ®

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