According to reports in the UK newspaper The Financial Times, the auction of Dutch cableco Essent Kabelcom will be fought out between Liberty Global and a joint bid by private equity firms Warburg Pincus and Cinven. Liberty has been given preferred bidder status in a deal that could value the cable firm at up to EUR3 billion (USD3.8 billion), says the paper, citing people familiar with the situation. However, the joint Warburg Pincus/Cinven bid is reportedly keen to take control of the Netherlands’ second largest cable operator, which has a market share of around 27%. The private equity firms have already inked a deal to buy the nation’s third largest cable operator, Casema, for EUR2.1 billion and Warburg Pincus also owns another CATV provider, Mulitkabel, having bought the firm last year. The pair ultimately hope to merge Multikabel with Casema, creating a company with a 26% share of the domestic cable market.