Virgin Media ‘Considers Bid’ For ISP Pipex’; Would Extend Branson Reach

Virgin Media may be about to buy one of the UK’s oldest internet service providers, Pipex, The Telegraph speculates, in a move that would extend Richard Branson’s broadband offering from cable to fixed-line. Sixteen-year-old Pipex appointed an investment bank last week to draw up sale plans, with any one of BT, Carphone Warehouse, Tiscali, BSkyB or Orange initially mooted as possible suitors. Telegraph does not cite its source but said Virgin Media (which rebranded last month after a merger with ntl/Telewest) was a “surprise frontrunner” amongst several expressions of interest.
In an increasingly competitive market, several UK companies now offer triple-play telephone, internet and IPTV services, with the addition of Branson’s Virgin Mobile adjunct marking his company out as a “quad-play” provider. But Virgin will need to grow its communications network from cable alone if it is to grow its subscriber base : while cable is available to just 55 percent of the country, ADSL broadband of the kind offered by Pipex is available over a standard phone line to anyone whose local exchange has been upgraded. A Virgin Media spokesperson just told me no comment: “Lots of people are looking at it and I’m sure we’ll continue to be mentioned in dispatches”.