Ntl shareholders 'seeking $34 per share'

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The private equity consortium said to be considering an offer for UK cable giant ntl could have to pay at least $34 per share in order to persuade its leading shareholders to sell. The Financial Times said the consortium, comprising Providence Equity, Blackstone, Cinven and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, had held discussions with New York-listed ntl's CEO, Steve Burch, in what could amount to a $20bn debt and equity purchase—Europe's biggest buy-out.

The FT said Branson had also to be won over, while The Sunday Times said Branson was understood to feel ntl was worth as much as $40 per share. The Sunday newspaper said advisers including investment banks Credit Suisse and Merrill Lynch had been brought in to advise the consortium. Ntl shares closed on Friday at $25.99, down 2.5%.

Earlier this month ntl virtually declared itself open to offers after admitting fierce competition caused it to lose 18,900 customers in its second quarter to June 30, ntl's first full quarter since merging with Telewest.

Burch, who last month unveiled ntl's pricing for its 'quadruple play' of digital TV, high-speed broadband, plus fixed and mobile telephony, said ntl was "confident in our ability to compete on value, quality, technology, service and brand". Ntl is set to adopt the Virgin brand for its operations once Branson is convinced the cable operations' customer service record has been improved.

Lovelace Consulting  |  29.08.2006

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