Observers of Britain’s cable-TV industry may be forgiven for thinking its two players – NTL and smaller rival Telewest – have already completed their widely anticipated merger, so similar are their mistakes.

Just days after debt-stricken Telewest risked the wrath of its investors by disclosing huge performance-related rewards for its directors [WAMN: 13-May-02], debt-stricken NTL announced a scheme with similar potential to upset shareholders, by proposing to reserve shares for an executive bonus programme.

NTL is undergoing a huge debt-for-equity swap that will virtually wipe out existing stakes and hand control to its bondholders (a tactic Telewest is also considering). Around 10% of the restructured firm will be used to reward senior managers, not least chief executive Barclay Knapp, whose resignation some shareholders have demanded.

However, the company declared that the scheme had not yet been finalised, as the make-up of the restructured company has yet to be decided.

The controversy took the gloss from news that NTL has signed broadband internet customer number 200,000. Although the firm claims to be Britain’s biggest high-speed web provider, British Telecom is expected to announce an identical feat later this week.

Data sourced from:; additional content by WARC staff