Virgin Media is likely to be auctioned off in the next six weeks, and the first bidder out of the blocks is private equity firm Carlyle which values the company at around $22bn including $12bn in debt.
Nasdaq-listed Virgin Media, the conglomerate resulting from the mergers of cable firms Telewest and NTL and virtual mobile operator Virgin Mobile, appointed investment bankers Goldman Sachs in May to carry out a valuation exercise ahead of any proposed sale.
Virgin Media claimed nine million customers in its most recent results, including three million cable TV, 3.4 million broadband, 4.5 million mobile and 4.1 million fixed-line subscribers.
But the company is involved in a bitter dispute with Rupert Murdoch's Sky pay-TV service over the price of content Virgin used to buy from Sky.
Virgin Media shareholders, looking at the mountain of debt still to climb, have therefore become increasingly restless.
The company's biggest investor, Sir Richard Branson, is likely to remain a shareholder after the group is sold.
If Carlyle ends up the owner, the deal will mark another rapid milestone in private equity purchases of a UK company.
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