NTL and Telewest, Britain's soon-to-be-merged cable duopoly, are the target of a threatened bid by US-based private equity firms, the Wall Street Journal reports.

The cable twosome, also US-owned, announced their long awaited merger earlier this week [WAMN: 04-Oct-05].

However, billionaire US financier William R Huff, the union's matchmaker and largest investor in both companies, claims to have received bid overtures from an unidentified group of private equity companies. Such a bid could top $11 billion (€9.06bn; £6.2bn).

According to Huff's associates, he has refused to sell his stake or to recommend to the betrothed pair they consider overtures from the mystery romancers. "It would be preposterous for this company to transfer value to a financial sponsor," huffed Huff.

It is not thought that either NTL or Telewest has yet received a direct approach from the mystery Romeos. Meanwhile, lips are zipped all round.

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff