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NTL’s Virgin Mobile deal still alive

Revised bid gets two sides back in negotiations

LONDON — U.K. cable combo NTL’s attempt to buy Richard Branson’s Virgin Mobile and create serious competition for paybox BSkyB may yet succeed following news that Virgin is in “preliminary discussions” after a revised £961 million ($1.7 billion) bid from NTL.

Last month the Virgin Mobile board rejected NTL’s $1.4 billion bid, saying that it undervalued the company.

But Virgin released a statement to the London stock exchange on Monday saying that the two sides were back in negotiations.

If a deal is greenlit NTL, currently merging with rival Telewest, said the business would be rebranded under the Virgin umbrella.

The Virgin Group of companies encompasses a U.K. airline and train service and has a better brand image than NTL, plagued for years by its poor reputation for customer service.

Branson is contributing some of the cash he would make from any deal — hence the improved offer — to create Blighty’s first “quadruple play” provider, offering mobile and fixed-line telephony, broadband and TV.

Last week BSkyB launched its broadband and mobile services.

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