Straight into the Guinness Book of Records at fifteen point eight billion dollars (€18.11bn; £11.10bn) goes UK-based, US-owned cable giant NTL, which on Wednesday unveiled the largest corporate trading loss ever recorded in Britain.
The numbers, overdue following several postponements, exacerbated already widespread fears that the group might shortly become unable to service its $17bn debt, interest payments on which currently run at an eye-watering $4 million daily.
Nor has it helped boost confidence in the flailing giant that NTL’s auditor – perhaps suffering from an attack of post-Enronitis – recently aired worries that the group might be unable to continue as a “going concern”. NTL ceo Barclay Knapp played down the auditor's caveat as “appropriate health warnings” for a company in its position.
Knapp declined to answer questions from analysts and journalists yesterday but revealed that NTL is holding talks with “strategic parties”, thought to be a coded reference to AOL Time Warner and Liberty Media, the latter an investor in similarly afflicted UK cable company Telewest.
One entrail-raker, Mathieu Robilliard of Banc of America Securities, predicted that NTL would survive in one guise or another. “There are some valuable assets in NTL,” he opined. “They are just not worth as much as the debt.”
Data sourced from: The Times (London); additional content by WARC staff