Eleventh-Hour Rescue for NTL; Control to Pass to Bondholders

17 April 2002

Bondholders in NTL, the near-bankrupt US cable company whose operations are primarily UK-based, have provisionally agreed to pump an injection of $500 million (€563.22m; £346.21m) into the company .

The tentative deal was announced Tuesday by NTL chief executive Barclay Knapp, whose job will be on the line if and when bondholders assume management control of the group under the terms of the refinancing. The restructuring could save annual interest payments of around $850 million.

After months of uncertainty, the rescue package was agreed in principle yesterday between the company and an unofficial committee representing more than 50% of NTL bonds. The group and some of its stateside subsidiaries are expected to file for US Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to create breathing space for the restructuring.

The plan – said to be the world’s largest corporate rescue – allows for bondholders to receive 100% of the equity in a new entity provisionally named NTL UK and Ireland; in addition they will receive 86.5% of the initial equity of a second new company, NTL Euroco.

Approximately $6 billion in UK and Swiss bank debt will remain in situ after the restructuring is complete, which Knapp expects to be in late August or early September. “We believe we can reach a consensual agreement by the end of the month or early next month,” he said. “I don't want to minimize the number of issues that need to be solved, but there's an incentive for all parties to reach a consensual agreement.”

Meantime, waiting to collect their pickings by the truckload are the born-rich brigade who win whatever the outcome. Expected to cream around $722m between them from the deal, the claws outstretched to NTL include those of Credit Suisse First Boston, J P Morgan and Morgan Stanley in Europe and New York law firm Skadden Arps. UBS Warburg will be billing the bondholders, while others in the loot line include accountants KPMG and lawyers Travers Smith Braithwaite and Clifford Chance.

Data sourced from: The Wall Street Journal Online and The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff