Revised bid gets two sides back in negotiations
LONDON — U.K. cable combo NTL’s attempt to buy Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile and create serious competition for paybox BSkyB may yet succeed following news that Virgin is in “preliminary discussions” after a revised £961 million ($1.7 billion) bid from NTL.Last month the Virgin Mobile board rejected NTL’s $1.4 billion bid, saying that it undervalued the company. But Virgin released a statement to the London stock exchange on Monday saying that the two sides were back in negotiations. If a deal is greenlit NTL, currently merging with rival Telewest, said the business would be rebranded under the Virgin umbrella. The Virgin Group of companies encompasses a U.K. airline and train service and has a better brand image than NTL, plagued for years by its poor reputation for customer service. Branson is contributing some of the cash he would make from any deal — hence the improved offer — to create Blighty’s first “quadruple play” provider, offering mobile and fixed-line telephony, broadband and TV. Last week BSkyB launched its broadband and mobile services.