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Private investors sniff around NTL/Telewest

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A group of private investors is still interested in buying UK cableco NTL once it has completed its merger with Telewest, The Sunday Times reports. The group - comprising Apax Partners, Cinven, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Premier, Providence Equity Partners - wants to spend around £8bn on the business.

The appeal of the cableco is further sweetened should NTL's take-over of Virgin Mobile get the green light. However, there are reports that the cableco is unlikely to welcome a buy-out and is expected to reject any approach.

Speculation that a third party might be interested in the enlarged telco surfaced just days after NTL confirmed in October that it planned to take-over Telewest in a deal that values the cableco at around $6bn. The pair - whose cable networks do not overlap - will be able to provide TV, phone and broadband to more than half of UK homes.

Once merged, the combined group will have almost five million residential punters and is set to be the largest provider of domestic broadband services in the UK with 2.5m subscribers. It will also be the second largest pay TV outfit with 3.3m punters and the number two fixed telephony provider with 4.3m subscribers.

However, the merger of the UK's two cablecos was given added significance earlier this month when NTL announced it had offered £817m to swallow Virgin Mobile. Although the deal was rejected by Virgin industry watchers remain confident it will go-ahead enabling the company to rebrand under the Virgin name offering a four play of TV, phone, broadband and mobile. ®

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