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Malone's Liberty Group considers Virgin Media bid

LONDON - John Malone, US media baron and rival to Rupert Murdoch, has said he is considering making a bid for Virgin Media, which is up for sale with a £11bn price tag.

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Malone is chairman of Liberty Global, a huge cable company with interests in Europe, the Americas and Asia Pacific. According to the Financial Times today, the group is at an exploratory stage in any possible bid.

He told the newspaper: "The UK market is big and complex and [Virgin Media] has a lot of interesting financial attributes. We have to look at it, not in a traditional way but in a quite exceptional way, perhaps with partners."

At the same time, he expressed his wariness about going up against Rupert Murdoch's BSkyB, no doubt chastened by his experiences in the US.

In a reference to the 'Star Wars' films, Malone said: "The bottom line issue is, can anything flourish under the Death Star?"

Malone recently held a minority stake in BSkyB parent News Corporation, until he swapped it for News Corp's controlling stake in US satellite broadcaster DirecTV.

Virgin Media is up for sale, with interested parties including private equity firms the Carlyle Group, a consortium including Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, Providence Equity Partners, Blackstone, Cinven and Apax, as well as US media giants Viacom and Time Warner.

As well as taking on the £12bn in losses at Virgin Media, any new owner will inherit a court case that is going on against Sky over access to channels. Earlier this month, it emerged that that case was unlikely to be resolved until 2009.

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