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Stakes raised in NTL - Virgin Mobile bid talks

Investors holding out for more cash

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There's still little sign of a breakthrough in the stalemate surrounding NTL's bid to buy Virgin Mobile. The Sunday Telegraph reports that the cellco's institutional shareholders are playing hard to get and want the firm to hold out for 400p a share.

In December, NTL - whose merger with Telewest recently received the green light from the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) - offered 323p a share for Virgin Mobile valuing the business at around £817m. This offer was rejected by Virgin Mobile.

Sir Richard Branson, who owns 72 per cent of Virgin Mobile and is keen to see the deal go ahead, has said that 360p a share might be enough to secure a deal but institutional investors are standing firm and want 400p, reports the paper.

Negotiations are due to kick off again this week after the Christmas break with recent reports suggesting that NTL might be prepared to up its £817m offer for Virgin Mobile by around 10 per cent.

But this could be complicated further because a group of private investors, thought to comprise Apax Partners, Cinven, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Premier, Providence Equity Partners, is understood to be keen on buying the whole kit and caboodle for around £8bn.

Should the firms and investors manage to strike a deal it would lead to the creation of a mega media business offering punters a four-play service of TV, fixed-line phone, broadband and mobile. As part of the deal the whole business would be renamed under the Virgin brand. ®

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