1,300 UK jobs to go as NTL integrates takeovers

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The Independent Online

NTL, the cable television and telecoms group, said yesterday it would shed 1,300 jobs, almost entirely in the UK, as it integrates the $30bn (£19bn) worth of acquisitions it has made over the last 18 months.

NTL, the cable television and telecoms group, said yesterday it would shed 1,300 jobs, almost entirely in the UK, as it integrates the $30bn (£19bn) worth of acquisitions it has made over the last 18 months.

The news came as its rival cable operator, Telewest Communications, announced the £200m acquisition of Eurobell from Deutsche Telekom, in the latest round of consolidation in the industry.

NTL said that after May's $8bn acquisition of the consumer arm of Cable & Wireless, it had identified "significant cost savings that will become material during the latter half of 2001". The job cuts are expected to come from duplicated technology and administration staff.

Barclay Knapp, NTL's chief executive, yesterday said: "Over the past 18 months, we have completed 11 acquisitions, culminating in the CWC ConsumerCo deal, which doubled the size of our consumer business. The time was therefore right for us to carry out a review of the way we run our business with an eye toward realising all the cost benefits of that consolidation."

The job losses will be spread over the next 15 months across NTL's 22,000-strong workforce, which includes 5,000 staff from CWC.

Meanwhile, Telewest's purchase of Eurobell expands its network in the South of England. Adam Singer, the chief executive, said: "The purchase of Eurobell is a terrific opportunity to expand our network by acquiring the last significant independent cable operator in Britain. Its franchise areas fit perfectly with our existing network in southern England, providing us with even more customers in some of the most affluent parts of the country."

Eurobell has franchises over areas with 336,600 homes, in Crawley, west Kent, and south Devon. It reported a loss before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation of £5.2m on sales of £35.5m in 1999.

It has 171,000 residential customers and 10,500 business clients. Telewest has about 1.5 million residential customers, while NTL, which is listed in New York, has more than twice that number. There has been speculation the two will eventually merge. Telewest shares closed down 1.75p at 123.5p yesterday, having jumped earlier in the week on renewed takeover speculation.

City analysts have become increasingly concerned about the huge debt burdens the cable companies have taken on from rolling out their networks and acquisitions, while the earnings payback still appears to be some years off. NTL has debt of £7.5bn.

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