U S West acquires controlling stake in Czech cable operator

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PRAGUE -- U S West International has increased to 57% its investment in Kabel Plus, the largest Czech cable operator, for $90 million in debt and equity. The move is part of a plan to put Kabel Plus on a "firm long-term financial footing," says Alan Thompson, PR director for US West International in London. U S West originally paid $19 million for a 28.6% equity stake in May 1995.

The new structure puts Jon Shumard, formerly U S West International's VP-Network Operations in the Czech and Slovak Republics, into the post of chief operating officer of Kabel Plus and sees Petr Siroky, Kabel's founder and one of the three shareholders, installed as executive vice president. The third shareholder is savings bank Ceska sporitelna.

Kabel Plus was founded in 1991 and now has more than 400,000 subscribers. U S West wants to expand services far beyond basic cable television. Kabel Plus has already installed a telephone network in the northern Czech town of Liberec with 900 current subscribers and another 20,000 are expected within three years. The company was recently awarded two more Czech telephony licenses.

Once the "pipeline" is in place, says Shumard, Kabel Plus can sell specific end user products such as a dial tone or cable TV or sell open network capacity to other service providers.

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