US media tycoon John Malone, whose interests include global cable conglomerate Liberty Media, is poised to seize control of debt-beset UK cable company Telewest.
Already controlled by US interests, including Liberty and Microsoft, Telewest is Britain's second largest cable network and currently saddled with a debt millstone of £5 billion ($7.33bn; €8.01bn).
Sources close to the situation say that Liberty Media is soliciting Telewest bondholders in order to raise its stake in the network to 50%.
Such an outcome is not to the liking of Telewest chief executive Adam Singer, now engaged in a frantic attempt to thwart Malone by selling the group’s specialist programme content unit Flextech, which could raise £500 million. But potential buyers are said to be conspicuous by their absence and time is running out for Singer.
Informed onlookers believe that Malone will stick to the template that enabled him to snare Dutch cable group UPC: bondholders swap debt for equity giving the Liberty a majority stake in the company and diluting to near zero the stakes owned by current shareholders.
Malone’s gameplan is to acquire control of Telewest then merge it with its larger British rival NTL, also US-owned and in the throes of debt restructuring, to create a single UK cable operator.
Predicts an unidentified merchant banker whose eagle eye is fixed on every move in the stalking saga: “Meetings between Malone and Singer are expected to begin in the next fortnight or so.”
Data sourced from: MediaGuardian.co.uk; additional content by WARC staff