Redmond, Wash. -- Microsoft Corp. declined to comment on
published reports that it's in talks to buy up to 30 percent of Cable & Wireless
Communications plc (CWC), Britain's No. 2 MSO, and up to $1 billion in Deutsche
Telekom A.G.'s cable systems, Europe's largest.
The investments would add to Microsoft's European
cable shopping spree this year.
It has already agreed to buy 5 percent of British MSO NTL
Inc. for $500 million; 7.85 percent of United Pan Europe Communications N.V. (UPC) --
Europe's largest private MSO -- for $333 million; and 2.5 percent of TV Cabo Portugal
S.A., the cable and satellite unit of Portugal Telecom S.A., for $38.6 million
And earlier this month, the company agreed to buy 29.99
percent of Telewest Communications plc, Britain's top MSO, through a stock swap. That
stake has been valued at up to $3 billion.
Analysts saw the investments as an effort by Microsoft to
get its software into operators' set-top boxes.
So far, the British operators have committed to use
competitors' software in their end-user boxes.
In a conference call with analysts last week, Telewest CEO
Tony Illsley said he was content with the company's decision to use Oracle Corp. and
America Online Inc. subsidiary Network Computer Inc.'s software in its set-tops.
Telewest, like NTL and CWC, plans to introduce digital
services this year. "Interactive services will be a vital part of our digital
product," Illsley said.
In a recent interview, UPC CEO Mark Schneider said he
expects to use Microsoft products, but he added that UPC "didn't do an exclusive
deal," and "they'll have to be the best price and quality."