By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN — Five companies have lined up to buy the Cablelink company from its Telecom/RTE ownership, with one mainly U.S.-owned company offering £360 million.
The top bidder was United Pan-Europe Communications, which is a subsidiary of the U.S.-based United International Holdings company.
It is already a giant on the European cable stage with five million homes linked to its systems and the first multi-supplier of video, telephone and data service.
Also bidding is NTL, a UK company with U.S. investors including Microsoft’s Bill Gates, which is already operating in Northern Ireland.
The U.S.-Irish consortium TCI, which is partnered with Tony O’Reilly’s Princes Holdings, is also interested. Princes Holdings is the country’s second largest cable company, with 150,000 customers.
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The Esat Telecom company and Cable Management Ireland also made bids and the five now go forward to Phase Two of the sale process, which is due to finish at the end of April.
Telecom spokesman Gerry O’Sullivan said the company is pleased with the response for the initial bids. "The quality of the bidders is very good," he said.
The five will now go through a due diligence process and the final bids will be binding with a decision on who is successful in May.