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High level talks that many expect to lead to a merger of the UK's two cable companies have finally kicked off, according to Reuters.

Both NTL and Telewest have now hired advisors to steer them through negotiations and have kicked off "early-stage merger talks", according to unnamed sources.

A marriage of the two cablecos has been on the cards for years although speculation about a tie-up has intensified recently following a restructuring of both companies.

Should the £5.5bn merger get the green light it would create a comms company that would be able to take on satellite TV giant Sky and dominant UK phone outfit BT, creating a company with annual revenues of around £3.3bn and some 5 million punters.

Elsewhere, NTL is trying to drum up even more business by offering 1 meg broadband for £9.99 a month fixed for the first year.

The deal for new punters within NTL's franchise areas is aimed at trying to get dial-up users to switch to broadband without clobbering them with hefty subscriptions. ®

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