U.S. News

Virgin Media Delays Auction on Debt Market Worries


British cable operator Virgin Mediaon Tuesday postponed the sale of the company after it became apparent buyers would not have access to the debt needed to do a deal right away.

Virgin Media

Virgin Media has become the latest victim of the $400 billion backlog of debt financing that banks are struggling to sell to investors, making it tougher for borrowers to secure funds for new takeovers, especially larger ones.

The company -- whose market capitalization is $7.7 billion and which also has about $12 billion of debt -- acknowledged it had received a takeover approach last month. Sources familiar with the situation said it was from private equity firm Carlyle Group for more than $30 per share.

Virgin Media said on Tuesday, however, that its financial advisers -- Goldman Sachs and UBS -- recommended the strategic review process be extended until potential strategic partners or bidders "can complete their proposals in a more stable debt market environment."

It added that suitors continued to confirm their interest, with sources close to the situation saying meetings with those in pursuit are expected to continue despite the turmoil in the debt markets.

Virgin Media originally asked for expressions of interest during the first week of August to formally kick off an auction of the company, people familiar with the situation said earlier.

As debt-market conditions deteriorated, however, the timetable became impractical.

Virgin Delays Auction

Private equity firms Providence Equity Partners, Blackstone Group , Cinven and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts have been considering a joint bid. TPG, which had been mulling an offer with partners, has withdrawn, however.

Cable mogul John Malone has also been contemplating entering the auction, another person told Reuters earlier.

Virgin Media shares, which are listed on the Nasdaq in New York, closed on Monday at $23.74, 21 percent off their 12-month high of $30, which was hit on the day the company disclosed it had received an approach.