British Telco-ISP Up for Auction: Might Murdochs Move?

17 October 2005

UK telephone and broadband provider OneTel has been put up for sale by energy and consumer services conglomerate Centrica - and among "more than a dozen" interested parties is thought to be BSkyB, the UK satellite monopoly controlled by the Murdoch family.

If BSkyB wins the auction, OneTel will have gone full circle, returning to the Murdoch family orbit from which it slid in 2001 after imploding with debts of over £215 million ($376m; €315m).

At the time of its collapse OneTel operated in Australia and Europe, backed by a young Australian duo, both with useful patriarchal media connections - James Packer and Lachlan Murdoch. The debris was swept up by Centrica for £58m.

These days OneTel has a customer base of 1.5 million, although as at H1 2005 it still languishes in the red to the tune of £2 million. In 2004 it broke even.

However, the business appears to be stabilizing and has attracted interest from a raft of potential buyers - among them Cable & Wireless, rival telco Thus, and private equity groups Apax Partners and Blackstone. Another bidder could be BSkyB, which analysts believe to be planning a major investment in telephony and broadband internet access [WAMN: 14-Oct-05].

But in the Sky bunker lips are firmly sealed: ''Sky has previously stated its intention to set the pace in media content and distribution. We don't comment on rumour and speculation," growled a spokesman.

Data sourced from; additional content by WARC staff