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NTL and Virgin Mobile confirm bid talks

Quadruple play - beat that, Sky!

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NTL and Virgin Mobile have confirmed they are in buy-out talks that could lead to a giant multimedia business better placed to slug it out with satellite broadcaster BSkyB and dominant telco BT.

The deal values Virgin Mobile - which is 72 per cent owned by Richard Branson's Virgin Group - at around £800m and would give the enlarged business a four-pronged approach to punters - TV, fixed-line phone, broadband and mobile.

A deal with Virgin Mobile also solves the problem of what to call the cable giant once NTL completes its merger with fellow UK cableco Telewest. Forget NTLWest or TeleNTL, with Virgin on board the new media group is gifted with the well-known Virgin brand.

Or as NTL - already has an agreement with Virgin over the use of its brand for part of its broadband service - said in a statement today: "If the proposed combination with Virgin Mobile and the licence agreement are completed, NTL intends to use the Virgin brand to offer a quadruple play of internet, television and fixed line and mobile telephony."

The go-ahead has already won the support of T-Mobile, Virgin Mobile's network provider, while Branson has already indicated he is keen for the deal to proceed. However, there is speculation that Virgin Mobile might still hold out for an improved offer either from NTL or even a rival bidder.

In a statement today Virgin said that it has received an approach from NTL that "may or may not lead to a formal offer being made for the company". ®

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