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Microsoft exits Telewest board

U.K. cabler step closer to restructuring

LONDON — Microsoft has pulled its three non-executive directors from the board of Telewest, a move that could signal future debt restructuring for the troubled U.K. cabler.

The removal of Henry Vigil, Salman Ullah and Dennis Durkin from the board will give Microsoft greater freedom to maneuver if Telewest follows the lead of NTL, Britain’s other cable operator, and initiates a debt-for-equity swap to reduce its £5.3 billion ($7.7 billion) debt.

Microsoft, which holds a 23.6% interest in Telewest, could decide to exit the company altogether. Such a sale would be impeded by a continuing presence on the cabler’s board.

John Malone’s Liberty Media, a 25% shareholder in Telewest, is expected to emerge as the company’s majority or controlling owner if restructuring takes place.

Microsoft said: “At present we believe that we will be in a better position to manage our relationship with, and investment in, Telewest without board representation.”

“Microsoft expects to continue to evaluate Telewest and will continue to consider purchasing or selling Telewest securities or engaging in possible strategic transactions,” the company added. “Microsoft has no current plan regarding any such transactions.”