Telewest, Flextech in talks

Businesses discuss potential merger

LONDON — U.K. cabler Telewest and pay TV programmer Flextech have confirmed they are in talks that could lead to a merger.

The two groups are already linked through John Malone’s Liberty Media, which owns 22% of Telewest and 36% of Flextech.

In response to market speculation, they issued a joint statement Monday confirming the two companies are in “exploratory discussions as to ways of working closer together to develop their respective businesses.”

These discussions, said the statement, “include the possibility of a combination of the two businesses.” But it cautioned talks are “at a very early stage.”

Flextech, which owns and operates a raft of basic cable and satellite webs, is moving aggressively into interactive programming and onto the Internet.

That’s the territory in which cablers such as Telewest believe they have a huge technological advantage in the digital age over rival satellite and terrestrial distribution systems.

A merger would give Telewest a much-needed stake in the content business, while it would provide Flextech with the financial scale that it currently lacks in comparison to rival programmers such as BSkyB, Carlton and Granada.

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