NTL sinks flotation plan

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The Independent Online
National Transcommunications, the former engineering arm of the Independent Broadcasting Authority, is to delay its flotation for at least two years.

The company, thought to be worth well over £100m, has been widely expected to float since 1993 but has now changed its plans.

Andy Sukawaty, newly appointed chief executive, said: "We will look again at a flotation in future. Given the opportunities we are involved in, this is not the right time to float - we are involved in too many high-growth industries." Mr Sukawaty said that the company, principally owned by Mercury Asset Management, had no need to raise money.

NTL has a turnover of £114m and has been consistently profitable since the Government sold it to MAM in 1991 for an estimated £70m. The company's core business is acting as a transmission service for radio and television, including Channel 3 and Channel 4, but it rapidly diversified into related fields.

NTL already uses its 600-plus transmitters as a telecommunications network, providing capacity for companies such as Vodafone and the cable television and telephony firms. The company has also become a world leader in digital television technology and isworking with a range of partners, including Rupert Murdoch's News International, to exploit its expertise around the world.

Mr Sukawaty said that NTL wanted to buy the BBC's transmission network, which is as large again as the one it already owns, if the Government decided it should be privatised. His company had the skill to implement digital television at least a year aheadof the BBC, and British trials were expected to be announced at the end of this month.

Mr Sukawaty said that in the case of the BBC, digital television transmission should be split from programming to allow others to compete on equal terms.

NTL also plans to take equity stakes in worldwide broadcasting networks, possibly in partnership with News International or Canal Plus of France.

Mr Sukawaty declined to say whether News International wished to take a stake in NTL, but he added that there had been approaches from several companies over the years.