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NTL / Virgin Mobile deal inches forward

Negotiations 'drawn-out'

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Further details have emerged of NTL's revised bid for Virgin Mobile.

The improved offer, which is expected to come in close to the £900m mark, and sees Sir Richard Branson taking £42m less for his 71 per cent share of the cellco, is being touted by some onlookers as enough to satisfy the demands of the cellco's minority shareholders, who've been holding out for more cash ever since they rejected a £817m bid before Christmas.

Should the offer get the thumbs up, it will mean shareholders get more cash, Branson gets his slice of a communications company capable of taking on pay-TV outfit Sky, and cableco NTL gets a corporate makeover in Virgin colours.

Indeed, should the deal go ahead, NTL looks set to cough up about £10m a year for the right to use the Virgin brand, which will replace NTL, Telewest (NTL is buying Telewest) and Virgin Mobile.

Said analysts at Ovum: "The latest move in this drawn-out negotiating game signals just how keen Sir Richard Branson is for this deal to happen."

"As we've commented before, this bid is all about brand," Ovum commented, adding that "the Virgin brand is more likely than NTL to succeed in the 'entertainment' market." ®

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