Another UK cable giant plans float

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The Independent Online
Bell Cablemedia, one of the largest cable television companies in Britain, has appointed Kleinwort Benson as advisers on a flotation on the London Stock Exchange. Kleinwort is thought to be acting jointly with Salomon Brothers on the listing, whi ch analysts say could raise well in excess of £100m.

Salomon was one of three banks that advised the group on its Nasdaq listing last summer, which valued the group at $1bn.

Bell Cablemedia, in which Cable & Wireless has a 12.8 per cent stake, is one of several cable companies expected to seek a London listing in the first half of this year. Other likely candidates include Nynex and General Cable, neither of which will comment. The companies follow Telewest, which floated in November, raising £360m after abandoning plans for a listing earlier in 1994.

Alan Bates, chief executive of Bell Cablemedia, refused to confirm the advisers, but said: "We are now close to a decision on the exact timing and size of a flotation." The company had already raised most of the money it needed to complete the building of its networks. "We are floating to open a door to raising money if needed in future for acquisitions," he added.

One analyst said that a potential bid target could be Videotron, a Canadian-controlled cable company in which Bell Cablemedia has a 30 per cent stake. Mr Bates said however that there were no firm targets in mind.

In preparation for the flotation, the group yesterday announced that all its regional operating companies - encom, Cablevision and Jones Cable - would from 1 February trade under the Bell Cablemedia name. Mr Bates said that the creation of a single strong brand would help to position the company as a key player in the cable sector.

Bell Cablemedia has interests covering more than 2 million homes in Britain. It plans to spearhead an industry-wide move into multimedia, offering educational, medical, entertainment and other services over the telephone to the home.

Mr Bates said: "The Government accepts that the British cable industry is leading the way in terms of information superhighways and the industry has accepted the need for a common solution."