U.K. cablers extend operational alliance

NTL, Telewest deny merger speculation

LONDON — U.K. cable operators NTL and Telewest are planning to jointly acquire set-top boxes and cable modems to reduce costs.

The companies have denied reports, however, that they are on the fast track to an operational merger.

NTL and Telewest recently joined forces to co-market their broadband Internet services and have a long-standing joint venture in Front Row, the cable pay-per-view movie service.

Although it is expected that NTL and Telewest will merge at some point in the future, Telewest chief exec Adam Singer said: “It is not a precursor to a merger, it’s a pre-cursor to both of us having to find ways of bringing scale without necessarily merging.”

The cablers carry considerable debt, considered to be the major impediment to a merger.

NTL, the larger of the two, is in deepest with debt of £10.9 billion ($15.5 billion). Telewest has $6.8 billion.

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