Deadline looms in two-horse race for CWW

POTENTIAL bidders for Cable & Wireless Worldwide (CWW) will have to show their hand this week in the latest chapter of the saga over the £1bn-rated telecoms firm.

Tata Communications and Vodafone have until Thursday to either announce a firm intention to make a bid for CWW or walk away after the Takeover Panel granted them an extension on 29 March.

Sir John Buchanan is preparing to step down from the board of Vodafone, after reaching the nine year threshold, following suggestions his scepticism over a deal put him at odds with chief executive Vittorio Colao.

Vodafone said Buchanan had not expressed an opinion on the deal and denied his departure is related to any disagreement with Colao.

The mobile giant said in February it was in the early stages of looking at a bid for CWW.

Tata Communications, a unit of Indian conglomerate Tata Group, said on 1 March that it too was evaluating a cash offer, in what could set up a takeover battle for CWW.

Cable & Wireless Worldwide has had a turbulent time of late and is currently on its third chief executive in the last year. Former boss John Pluthero was replaced by Gavin Darby following a £433m half-year loss.

But CWW is still attractive to buyers for its fixed line network in the UK, the extra capacity it would provide and its large corporate client base. CWW is the communications provider for 70 firms in the FTSE 100.

Analysts suggest private equity firms could also be eyeing CWW too.