TW eyes Gallic cable stake

PARIS — Time Warner appears to be moving forward with plans to take a minority stake in France’s second-largest cable operator, Compagnie Generale de Video Communication (CGV).

According to French newspaper Les Echos, Time Warner Cable will take a 35% slice of CGV from the company’s parent, Generale des Eaux. At the same time, pay television giant Canal Plus will increase its stake in CGV from 20% to 35%, leaving Generale des Eaux with just 20% of the cable outfit.

In recent months, Generale des Eaux chairman Jean-Marie Messier has made it clear he would like to sell off his group’s cable interests, which are carrying an estimated 1.4 billion francs ($245 million) in debt.

Earlier this year, there was speculation that Time Warner might be interested in taking a slice of CGV, although TW execs played down such suggestions. CGV has about 330,000 subscribers but spilled $52 million in red ink last year. However, the cable operator is expected to hit operating break-even by the end of 1997.

Time Warner already has its own fledgling cable operation in France with some 12,000 subscribers in Montreuil and Limoges.

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