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NTL flogs Irish cableco

Telewest merger step closer

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NTL has flogged its cable business in Ireland, fuelling speculation that it is clearing the table to begin merger talks with Telewest.

Yesterday evening the cableco announced it had sold its Irish business to UnitedGlobalCom for €325m (£222m). MS Irish Cable Holdings, a subsidiary of Morgan Stanley, will hold the stake on UGC's behalf, until the deal gets regulatory clearance.

NTL is use the cash from the sale to "repay principal amounts outstanding under its senior credit facility in accordance with the terms of that facility".

NTL chief exec Simon Duffy chipped in: "This transaction reinforces our commitment to maintaining a clear focus on growing and improving our UK communications and content distribution businesses."

The sale of NTL's Irish business is widely viewed as a precursor to the eventual merger of NTL and Telewest to create an enlarged digital TV, telecoms and broadband company that could compete more effectively with Sky and BT.

In February NTL completed the £1.27bn ($2.3bn) sale of its broadcast division to a consortium led by Macquarie Communications Infrastructure Group. ®

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