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OneTel could be flogged

EasyNet denies interest from Centrica

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Centrica - the UK company that owns utility British Gas - is looking to flog its OneTel telco business, according to The Sunday Times.

The paper reports that Centrica - which has more than a million telephone and internet punters - has received interest from a number of outfits keen to make a bid for the telco.

No-one from OneTel - said to be valued at a couple of hundred million - was available at the time of writing to comment on the story.

Still, news that Centrica is looking to shed its phone business follows speculation last week that OneTel was eyeing up broadband telco EasyNet.

Rumours about a possible buy-out followed an announcement last month that Onetel is to ditch BT as its supplier of wholesale broadband following a deal with the local loop unbundling (LLU) operator.

As part of the three-year deal some 20,000 punters look set to be unhooked from BT's network and wired up to Easynet instead.

On Friday, though, EasyNet boss David Rowe told AFX that there was "no truth in this rumour".

Instead, Rowe spent Friday commenting on EasyNet's latest set of results to anyone who would listen.

EasyNet's own ISP - UK Online - now has 21,000 punters receiving unbundled broadband services since its launch in April and recently announced plans to beta test a 24 meg product in October.

Rowe also reiterated EasyNet's plan to continue its investment in LLU by unbundling up to 350 exchanges in the UK, bringing its network within reach of 5.8m homes and 850,000 businesses.

Publishing its figures for the six months to the end of June EasyNet saw revenues rise 12 per cent to £77.1m compared to £68.7m during the same period last year.

Despite this increased turnover pre-tax loss increased from £9.3m to £11.2m. ®

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