Leading cable operators NTL and Telewest are thrashing out a deal forr a deal begins to run out. sole ownership of Cable London, which has half a million customers in the city.
The two currently have an equal share of Cable London, but with the rapid consolidation in the market both companies are keen to snap up well-placed franchises to expand their networks.
The deal must be completed by May to clear all the legal issues before each launches its respective high-speed digital services later in the year.
"The processes involved in moving one franchise to another drag on and you have legal people crawling all over you during this period so the deal will be finalised by May," said a spokesman for Telewest.
Telecoms consultant Steven Hannington commented: "Both are acquisitive organisations and it's about getting more pieces of the jigsaw than the other guy. Customers should win either way."
Simon Weeden, senior analyst at Deutsche Bank, believes Telewest is the best bet for users. "Cable London customers would benefit from being brought into the Telewest fold as they will get broader and better priced services from Telewest," he said.
NTL bought Comcast last year, which included a half-share in the Cable London franchise, shared with Telewest.
Telewest is the manager of the London franchise and under the agreement, NTL as the "sleeping partner" must make the offer. Telewest can then either agree to buy NTL's stake at the offer price, or insist that NTL pays for its interest at the same price.
Neither company is content to share the franchise.
ROLL OUT DATES
- Telewest will launch stage one of its video-on-demand and broadcast television services in October
- NTL will roll out its digital cable and interactive TV services in August.
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