Europe's largest buyout deal‾

Kerry Capell and Mark Scott
21 Aug 2006
00:00

It could be the biggest buyout in European history. After a failed takeover attempt last year, a consortium of private equity players hopes it will score in its latest attempt to secure Britain's largest cable company, NTL, in a record $20 billion deal. Led by Rhode Island-based Providence Equity, the consortium includes U.S. private equity firms Blackstone and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Bain, and Britain's Cinven, according to sources close to the talks.

Informal discussions have been ongoing for several weeks, the sources say. The talks became more serious last week when the private equity group and NTL management began meeting formally. NTL, and its second-largest shareholder, Bill Huff, founder of Morristown (N.J.) -based W.R. Huff Asset Management, declined comment.

Just last month, Virgin Group founder Richard Branson became NTL's largest investor, securing more than a 10% stake in NTL in exchange for selling Virgin Mobile for $1.8 billion sale. Virgin says it has received no approaches from interested investors.

BUYOUT BONANZA.

TGT

) and K-Mart, is the target of a potential $18 billion bid from KKR"”a record deal in that country should it go through.

MEDIA BUYS.

HCA

), the No. 1 U.S. hospital chain. That deal broke records, even taking into account the assigned debt.

UVN

) for $12.3 billion. Earlier this year in Europe, KKR and Carlyle Group joined forces to secure the $11.6 billion takeover of VNU, the Dutch media company.

The NTL talks are part of an ongoing trend in which cash-rich private equity houses are targeting telecom, cable, and media assets. Because of their ability to generate steady streams of cash, cable companies are seen as attractive investments for private equity firms.

QUADRUPLE PLAY.

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