Virgin Media has conceded that its sale will be delayed for an unspecified time after it became the latest victim of the credit squeeze. The auction of the group, for which first-round offers had initially been expected today, is now on hold until a ‘more stable debt market environment’ emerges.
Virgin Media, formed by a tie-up of NTL/Telewest and Virgin Mobile, was put on the market last month after an approach from Carlyle, the US private equity group. Apax is understood to be the latest potential private equity suitor to go cold on the deal. TPG, formerly Texas Pacific Group, has already pulled out of the auction.
However, in a statement, Virgin, insisted that it had received a ‘strong ongoing interest in a transaction’ from both private equity and trade players. It said that its advisers, UBS and Goldman Sachs, had recommended the extension of the deal until bidders could complete their proposals in a more stable environment. Carlyle is understood to remain intent on seizing its target. It is facing competition from another private equity consortium. involving Providence, Blackstone, KKR and Cinven. Liberty Global, Europe’s biggest cable operator and a former shareholder in Telewest, is understood also to still be looking at Virgin Media, although it has yet to decide whether to lodge a formal offer for the group.