Microsoft ups stake in European cable company

Microsoft has increased its stake in Dutch cable communications company United Pan-Europe Communications NV (UPC) to own 8 percent of the firm, UPC said yesterday.

The US software giant agreed to exercise warrants held in UPC to buy 5.7 million shares at a cost of $US9.3 per share for a total value of $53.2 million, UPC said in a statement issued yesterday. The warrants, part of a technology relationship agreement between Microsoft and UPC, became exercisable in February. Microsoft's stake in UPC was previously around the 7 percent mark.

Based in Amsterdam, UPC offers cable television, telephony, high-speed Net access and programming services across 18 countries including Israel, according to information on the company's Web site.

In September of last year, Microsoft, UPC and Liberty Media announced the formation of a joint venture to investigate content and distribution opportunities in the European market. The joint venture was to hold around 14.5 percent of UPC's parent company, Denver, Colorado-based UnitedGlobalCom.

Microsoft announced towards the end of January last year its plans to buy $300 million of UPC's shares when the Dutch broadband company went public.

The software giant has gradually been building up its investments in foreign cable companies, also investing $500 million in UK firm NTL Inc. in January of last year. In April this year, Microsoft said it had bought a majority stake in Titus Communications, one of Japan's largest cable MSOs (multiple system operators).

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