Business Briefs

Holland’s troubled cable market leader United Pan-Europe Communications (UPC) is getting a tough challenge on its own home ground.

Casema, a cable company owned mainly by France Telecom, is in preliminary negotiations to take over the cable holdings of Essent, Holland’s largest energy company. The acquisition would give Casema some 2.8 million subscribers, or a 46% share of the market, beating out UPC, which now has 35% share.

The talks come at the tail end of a frenzied cable consolidation movement in Holland over the last year, which has left UPC in first place, Essent in second and Casema in third place.

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KirchPayTV has sold one-quarter of its shares in British Sky Broadcasting, raising £252 million ($380.5 million) and reducing its stake in the satcaster to 3.7%.

The German pay TV company, part of the Kirch Group, will use the cash to finance its rollout in the German market.

News of the 20 million-share sale pushed BSkyB stock down by as much 7% Tuesday.

The satcaster’s controlling shareholder is News Corp. (37.1%). France’s Vivendi, parent of Canal Plus, holds 22.9%.

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Spanish commercial net Tele 5 announced post-tax profits for the first four months of 2000 of Pta7.2 billion ($40 million), 85% up on the same period, 1999. Net revenues for January-April 2000 stood at $175 million.

TV advertising in Spain rose 14% during the first four months of 2000.

Tele 5 has also scored massively with Endemol’s “Big Brother,” which has converted Tele 5 into Spain’s ratings leader for the first time in its history.

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Virgin entrepreneur Richard Branson has refinanced his V2 record label by persuading the company’s backers to trade their loans for shares.

The move reduces Branson’s stake in V2 — home to the Stereophonics, the Chemical Brothers and music vet Tom Jones — to 66% and pays off £73 million ($110 million) of the label’s approximate $140 million debt.

Led by bond holder Morgan Stanley Dean Witter, V2’s backers will now own 34.5% of the company.

Branson will cover the remaining debt and is injecting an additional $68 million into V2, which he set up in 1997 in the wake of having sold his original Virgin record label to EMI.

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