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Virgin Media asks Suitors to Submit Bids: Sources

British cable operator Virgin Media has asked suitors to submit expressions of interest by the first week of August to kick off an auction of the company, people familiar with the situation said on Monday.

Virgin Media, which launched earlier this year after the merger of NTL, Telewest and Virgin's mobile phone division, said on July 2 it had received a bid approach from an unnamed group.

Private equity firm Carlyle Group was behind the initial offer, sources familiar with the situation said at the time.

Virgin Media's market capitalisation is $9.1 billion and it has another $12 billion of long-term debt.

Since then about 10 other suitors have expressed an interest, some of whom are likely to team up with each other.

Private equity firms Providence Equity Partners, Blackstone Group, Cinven and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co. are considering a joint bid, while TPG and Apax Partners are also interested, the sources said.

Press reports have said U.S. media companies Comcast, Liberty Media, Time Warner and Viacom are also interested.

The cable operator's Nasdaq-listed shares have risen more than 23% to $30.00 since the announcement but closed on Friday at $27.89.

Analysts have said any offer is likely to be pitched at between $30 and $35 a share.

Virgin Media launched amid a hail of publicity to supply cable television, telephone, Internet and mobile phone services, but has struggled following a dispute with satellite television rival BSkyB over the price the two groups should pay to carry each other's channels.

Virgin Media declined to comment on the sale process and the suitors either declined to comment or could not be reached.

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