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ComputerWire: IT Industry Intelligence

KPNQwest NV's future is still hanging in the balance after trustees for the bankrupt carrier look set to extend the deadline to collect funds from customers until noon today. If the customers that promised to settle their bills pay up, trustees are optimistic that the backbone could be kept in operation for several weeks, so additional time has been granted to enable the cash to be transferred.

Europe's largest data network, which covers 18 countries, had been due to close yesterday evening if money was not forthcoming, but aware that the value of the assets would be devalued considerably once the network is shut down, trustees are bending over backwards to ensure its survival. Certainly they do not have to go far to collect the largest amount because the biggest outstanding bill, for 23m euros ($21.4m) is owed by Dutch telecoms incumbent Royal KPN NV.

Leaks from the company yesterday suggested there was growing optimism that it would survive long enough to ensure an orderly sale of assets. The Hoofddorp, Netherlands-based company has retained Bear Stearns & Co Inc to dispose of all or parts of the business.

Given the huge surplus of capacity in Europe, it is a mystery that KPNQwest retains any major customers. Cable operator United Pan-Europe Communications NV, itself involved in financial restructuring, said yesterday that it is no longer using KPNQwest's network to carry its internet traffic.

Meanwhile, the list of potential bidders continues to grow, and Dublin, Ireland-based carrier Etel Group, which operates in the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia, said it is interested in acquiring KPNQwest's east European assets and is conducting a due-diligence study.

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