Telewest bids for Gen. Cable

Cabler close to completion of $1.2 bil deal

LONDON — Telewest, the U.K.’s second-biggest cable operator, has put an end to speculation and announced it is close to completing a £666 million ($1.2 billion) takeover of General Cable, the fifth-largest cabler in Britain (Daily Variety, March 30).

The merger positions Telewest to pass Cable & Wireless Communications to become the No. 1 cable company in the U.K. The deal will also thwart a rival takeover bid — believed to be worth $920 million — for General from NTL, the No. 3 Brit operator.

Shareholder backing

Telewest’s bid — which consists of both cash and shares — is backed by General’s main shareholder, France’s Compagnie Generale des Eaux (40%).

Telewest’s offer, however, must be made by April 15, and the board of the new company must also be restructured to include an exec from General as one of four executive directors. Telewest chief exec Stephen Davidson will head the company.

Telewest is also looking to exercise options to acquire two local operators — in London and Birmingham — that are part of Comcast, the operator that NTL is acquiring for $608 million. With all three acquisitions, Telewest would then have more than 6 million U.K. households, outstripping CWC.

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