Virgin Media Eyes Sale To US-Based Cable Firm

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Virgin Media (NasdaqGS: VMED - news) has confirmed it is in talks about a possible sale of the company to the US cable group Liberty Global (NasdaqGS: LBTYA - news) .

Almost five million households in the UK subscribe to Virgin's broadband, television and landline services.

Virgin also has some three million mobile phone customers in Britain.

Sir Richard Branson owns a three percent stake in Virgin Media, which is listed in New York, with a secondary listing in London.

The company's share price soared on news of the talks, going up by some 18% in trading.

US-based Liberty Global operates in 13 territories and is seeking to expand its base in Europe.

Virgin Media is the second biggest pay-TV group in Britain behind BSkyB (LSE: BSY.L - news) , the parent company of Sky News, and has been valued at around $20bn (£13bn).

The talks were confirmed by Virgin Media, which currently has debts of around $9bn (£5.7bn), in a brief statement.

Liberty has recently increased its stake in Belgian operator Telenet (Other OTC: TLGHF - news) to 58% and owns other consumer brands across Europe, including UPC, Unitymedia, Kabel BW and VTR.

It also owns a content and channels group called Chellomedia.