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NTL ready to up bid for Virgin Mobile

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NTL is getting ready to make another formal bid for Virgin Mobile, reports the Independent after its £817m bid (323p a share) for the mobile operator was rejected by the board of Virgin Mobile in December.

Earlier this week reports suggested that some investors were holding out for 400p a share although the Independent reports one insider as describing this figure as "dreamland".

Instead, the paper reports that execs are getting ready to up their bid to between 365p and 370p a share in the hope that this will satisfy minority shareholders. Sir Richard Branson is looking to swap his 72 per cent in Virgin Mobile for a 14 per cent stake in the enlarged business.

Should the deal go ahead the new business would be rebranded under the Virgin livery creating a media giant with some ten million punters offering TV, fixed line phone, internet and mobile services under one roof.

Coupled with NTL's take-over of cableco Telewest as well, the enlarged group would make a sizeable rival to Sky's satellite service.

However, according to a report by the BBC's flagship consumer affairs programme Watchdog, the NTL still has a problem with customer service. The TV show has received 1,700 complains about NTL in the last 11 months despite assurances from the cableco last year that it planned to invest £100m in customer service.

In a statement NTL accepted that the billing and account problems featured on the programme were "unacceptable".

But it went on to say that these numbers need to be put into perspective. "Today, NTL has 3.3 million residential customers using over 6 million services. In the past 12 months we managed the process of moving home for over 350,000 customers and received 24 million calls about a wide variety of matters. Yet, the number of complaints reduced to 0.31 per cent and customer recommendation has improved by two per cent over the past four months. While any complaint is one too many, we have seen real progress through 2005 with the number of complaints received directly by NTL falling by over ten per cent." ®

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