AOL Time Warner, NTL in Europe talks

AOL Time Warner Inc. and U.K. cable company NTL Group Ltd. are discussing possible joint activities in Europe, NTL said Monday.

“We are in the early stages of talks with AOL about some potential joint activity, (but) apart from (the) outlying terms sheet, nothing has been agreed at this stage and we have nothing to announce,” NTL said in a statement.

NTL Group, a subsidiary of New-York based NTL Inc., is the United Kingdom’s largest cable television provider, with 8.5 million customers, and across Europe the company reaches 20 million households, according to NTL spokeswoman Victoria Watkins.

AOL is keen to expand into Europe and if it can come to terms with NTL, the two companies will share revenue from broadband customers in exchange for AOL Time Warner’s content, according to a story published Sunday in The New York Times newspaper.

AOL had originally approached British Telecommunications PLC, but was unable to come to any broadband agreement, the report said, quoting sources close to the talks.

BT has been repeatedly criticized for the slowness with which it is rolling out broadband services. Last February, ISPs (Internet service providers) AOL Europe GmbH and Freeserve PLC launched a formal complaint against BT with the U.K.’s telecommunications regulator over its high-speed Internet services.

NTL Inc. announced on Friday it had received a commitment for US$388 million in financing from GE Capital Corp. About half of this will be used to reduce debt resulting from the acquisition of Cable & Wireless Communications PLC’s U.K. consumer telecommunications business, while the remainder will be used to finance construction, capital expenditure, working capital requirements and for general corporate purposes. In the quarter to Dec. 31, 2000, NTL Inc. reported a net loss of $1.2 billion on sales of $852.9 million.

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