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BT 'secures regulatory approval' in Pipex carve-up

While others circle

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More Pipex sell-off rumours squeaked out of the over the weekend, but provided little clue as to which of the big players will scoop up its punters.

The Sunday Times reported that BT has been given the go-ahead by regulators to bid for the 570,000 served by Pipex's brands. BT's interest in AOL's million-strong customer base sale last year was nixed by competition concerns.

Virgin Media's hot favourite status, which newspaper reports anointed it last week, was been cooled by counter whispers which claim a move by the cable operator into DSL would leave it vulnerable to a push to force it to open its own infrastructure to rivals.

BT was similarly stripped of its monopoly status with Ofcom's local loop unbundling regulations and wholesale price caps. Virgin's enemies say its subscribers are shielded from fair competition because winning them over to DSL often means installing a BT line at a cost of £120.

Carphone Warehouse and Sky also remain in the frame to win Pipex, which has a market cap of about £396m.

Deal broker UBS took bids for Pipex's assets, which also include one of only two currently available WiMAX licences and domain registrar and hosting outfit 123-Reg, on Friday. A break up is on the cards, with deal announcements possible this week. ®

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