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Author`s name Alex Naumov

Virgin Media seeks buyer

British cable operator Virgin Media has appointed Goldman Sachs to seek a possible buyer after it received approaches from various private equity firms, people familiar with the situation said on Sunday.

Carlyle Group, for one, offered in recent weeks to buy the company, whose leading shareholder is the flamboyant entrepreneur Richard Branson, the sources said, but they declined to disclose the price put forward.

Virgin's market capitalization is $8 billion, meaning any offer would likely exceed $10 billion based on the typical premiums paid in takeovers.

The company, whose shares are traded in New York but whose operations and customers are in Britain, also has another 6.1 billion pounds ($12.21 billion) of long-term debt.

Its shares closed at $24.37 on Friday on the Nasdaq.

The search for a Virgin Media buyer by Goldman Sachs was characterized by the sources as in the early stages, Reuters reports.

A spokeswoman for Virgin Media declined to comment. A message was left Sunday evening seeking comment from The Carlyle Group.

Virgin Media, formed by a merger this year between Branson's Virgin Mobile and cable operator NTL Inc., reported its seventh consecutive quarterly loss in May after subscribers defected to rival BSkyB.

Virgin Media lost customers earlier this year after it stopped airing basic BSkyB channels, dropping popular programs such as "Lost," "24," and "The Simpsons," as the result of a battle over fees during negotiations to renew a distribution agreement.

BSkyB has long dominated pay TV in Britain, accounting for around 70 percent of the country's pay-TV subscribers. But the arrival of Virgin Media has threatened a shake-up of the status quo, and relations between the two have become increasingly rancorous in recent months, the AP reports.

Virgin Media lost customers this year after it stopped showing numerous channels of rival British Sky Broadcasting Group, which airs several popular television programs, UPI reports.

Some analysts have said Virgin Media is struggling in a market where customers can increasingly choose between package deals that offer a variety of media services, the Times said.

Source: agencies

Prepared by Alexander Timoshik

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