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France telecom tops NTL bidders

$1.46 bil bid understood to be less than other suitors

LONDON — France Telecom has emerged as one of three bidders for troubled U.K. cabler NTL’s broadcast transmission business.

The reported £1 billion ($1.46 billion) bid is understood to be less than those of NTL’s other suitors.

The French telco, which owns 24% of NTL, carries debt of $60 billion, limiting what it can offer. The other bids are said to contain a greater cash element.

NTL — burdened with $16 billion of its own debt — is believed to be seeking $2.3 billion for the transmission business, which consists of 2,100 towers that broadcast commercial terrestrial TV across Britain. NTL is selling the business to help alleviate market fears that it is not fully funded until its projected break-even point in 2003.

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