NTL goes cool on Telewest tie-up

Jason Niss,Heather Tomlinson
Sunday 23 March 2003 01:00

The long-awaited merger between NTL and Telewest, the two heavily indebted cable TV groups, won't happen this year and may not happen at all.

NTL has told its cable TV rival it is not interested in pursuing a merger at the present time. The two had been expected to resume their on-off merger talks once Telewest completes its debt restructuring. But Telewest will not be able to give a firm date for completing the complex debt deal when it announces full-year figures this week. Meanwhile NTL, which recently emerged from US Chapter 11 bankruptcy, has gone cool on the merger plans.

One reason for this is that NTL has hired three senior managers, including former Orange finance director Simon Duffy. There is also opposition from banks that think two troubled companies merging will mean double trouble.

One source close to NTL said: "There is unlikely to be a deal this year. The management will want to get bedded in at NTL. The banks might not support a merger, because they have limits on one single exposure."

NTL had a bad experience merging Cable & Wireless Communications and is reluctant to take on another large integration job in the near future.

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