Virgin Media keeping NYSE as primary base

U.K. cable company is valued at about $4.2 billion

LONDON -- Nasdaq-listed cable group Virgin Media said it would debut on the London Stock Exchange on Thursday but would maintain its New York listing as its primary base.

The U.K. cable company, which has about 3.5 million cable TV subscribers and is valued at about $4.2 billion, aims to float a minority stake here in a bid broaden the company's appeal to U.K. investors, chief executive Neil Berkett said.

The move comes amid increasing speculation that troubled British commercial broadcaster ITV could be subject to a possible takeover approach after its plans to hire a new chief executive dramatically fell apart last week when the board walked away from a $42 million deal with former BSkyB chief executive Tony Ball.

Three years ago -- when ITV was last without a chief executive -- Virgin Media began takeover talks with the broadcaster, which were eventually scuppered when BSkyB's then chief executive James Murdoch swooped on a 17.9% stake, making a takeover impossible.

A listing in the U.K. could make a merger or acquisition more possible as well as give Virgin access to additional equity to finance any potential deal.

ITV's failure to secure a chief executive after a five-month search has seen the broadcaster's share price fall by 25% to 45 pence (71 cents) from a high three weeks ago as investors bought into the company on the expectation of a Ball announcement.

ITV is thought to be talking to former Reed Elsevier chairman Crispin Davies and former Channel 4 chairman Michael Bishop as potential candidates for chairman and will make a renewed choice of chief executive when a new chairman is in place.

Virgin Media is not the only player thought to be interested in a bid for the U.K. broadcaster, with Mediaset, Goldman Sachs and RTL all thought to be watching the situation.

"On the back of the management chaos at ITV, the market interpretation might be that ITV is now 'in play,' " Panmure Gordon analyst Alex De Grote wrote in an investment note published Monday.
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