Private equity firm stalks Virgin

Cable company vulnerable

LONDON — U.S. based private equity combo Providence Equity Partners is believed to be mulling a $15 billion bid for British cable group Virgin Media.

Providence thinks it could make an opportunistic bid, according to a report in U.K. newspaper the Observer, because of the relatively weak stock price of Virgin Media, known as NTL before rebranding in February.

The private equity group, which expressed interest in the company last summer when the stock was valued at $31, is holding talks with partners Blackstone, KKR and Cinven over a potential bid.

Virgin, locked in a bloody battle with U.K. satcaster BSkyB, recently revealed that it had lost TV subscribers during the first quarter this year.

Virgin said it expected to lose more customers in the months ahead following BSkyB’s decision to pull several channels, including flagship web Sky One, following a row over a carriage deal.

The cable operator’s stock price fell recently to $24.

Virgin is embroiled in legal action in the British High Court over the carriage fees row and is also attempting to persuade the U.K. Competition Commission to examine BSkyB’s dominant position in the British pay TV market.

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