U.K. Cable expanding

LONDON — Cable & Wireless Communications, the new British cable TV and telephone giant, plans to spend £110 million ($175 million) on upgrading its cable networks for digital TV.

The company confirmed that it is actively seeking to develop its own movie channels, pay-per-view and video-on-demand services, independent of those which satcaster BSkyB intends to offer in its digital package.

CWC is part of a group of British cable companies that are negotiating with the major studios to prevent BSkyB from securing exclusive access to Hollywood movies for its digital service.

CWC is currently in the process of being formed from the huge and complex merger between Mercury Communi-cations, Bell Cablemedia, Videotron and Nynex CableComms.

That deal took a step closer to completion Monday when CWC, the new name for the telephone company Mercury, published the formal details of its agreed bid to buy the U.K. cable operators Bell Cablemedia and Nynex Cable-Comms, both of which are subsidiaries of American telcos. Bell Cablemedia absorbed cabler Videotron U.K. in an earlier deal.

When the merger is completed, CWC will be 56.6% owned by Cable & Wireless, 18.5% by Nynex and 14.2% by Bell Cablemedia. Public shareholders will hold the remaining 14.7%.

The integrated group will have a market capitalization of up to $11 billion, and annual sales of over $3 billion.

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