Equity group considers Virgin Media buy


LONDON -- Providence Equity Partners is considering a $15 billion consortium bid for ailing U.K. cable operator Virgin Media, in which Richard Branson is the biggest shareholder, the U.K. Observer newspaper reported Sunday.

The report said that Providence was part of a consortium including Blackstone, KKR and Cinven looking at the possibility of a bid based on Virgin Media's ailing shareprice.

The cabler last week announced that it lost 47,000 customers in the first quarter of the year, sending shares plunging to $24. During the same period BSkyB added 52,000 new homes.

None of the parties could be reached for comment.

The cable group has been embroiled in a damaging and public carriage fee row with BSkyB that has seen Sky's popular entertainment channels taken off the service to the anger of viewers. Last week the satcaster said the dispute could not be resolved.

Despite a $50 million marketing campaign to promote the rebranded Virgin Media service and its quadruple-play offering of cable TV, broadband internet, fixed and mobile telephony, customers have continued to quit the service.

Chief executive Steve Burch warned last week that second quarter figures are also expected to be down.