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Source: NTL Sweetens Virgin Offer

U.K. cable operator ntl group ltd. (Nasdaq: NTLI) has at last increased its takeover bid for Virgin Mobile Telecoms Ltd. , upping its offer from the original 323 pence per share, which was rejected, to 372 pence per share, Light Reading has learned. (See NTL Eyes Mobile Buy.)

Virgin Mobile's phones went unanswered, and NTL said it couldn't comment. But a source with knowledge of the ongoing discussions confirmed that a revised offer had been made. Media reports last week suggested that Virgin Mobile shareholders were holding out for 400 pence per share. (See Merger Mania Continues in Europe.)

Virgin Mobile's share price closed up 3 pence this afternoon at 371 pence on the London Stock Exchange , valuing the virtual network operator at £958.7 million (US$1.7 billion). NTL, which is currently in the process of completing its merger with fellow U.K. cable player Telewest Global Inc. (Nasdaq: TWSTY), is currently trading at $67.10, up 27 cents today. (See NTL & Telewest: Together at Last!.)

A higher bid had been anticipated as NTL seeks to add mobile services to its domestic triple-play package of voice, TV/video, and broadband. Reports earlier this week suggested NTL might settle for a partnership without equity involvement, but NTL seems committed to owning the U.K. mobile services operator. (See NTL May Offer More to Virgin.)

That's not the end of the M&A intrigue surrounding NTL, though. Further rumors suggest that private equity buyers are waiting for the outcome of the Virgin Mobile bidding process before making a swoop on the whole caboodle. (See Eurobites: A Private Affair.)

— Ray Le Maistre, International News Editor, Light Reading

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