Numis Securities agreed with this suggestion
Earlier this month Mr Singh, who founded New Look in 1969, tabled a bid for the group, believed to be at 330p a share, which would value it at £662m. Currently a non-executive director, he already owns 28 per cent of the company. But the latest gossip doing the rounds of the Square Mile suggests that shareholders are unsatisfied with this offer and that Mr Singh, whose bid is backed by the private equity firms Apax Partners and Permira, will have to pay a lot more than 330p a share to win control of the group.Numis Securities agreed with this suggestion. New Look, up 9p to 323.5p, was back on traders' radar screens yesterday as a plethora of rumours surrounded the fashion retailer, which is in the process of being taken private by its founder, Tom Singh. Yet Mr Huff seems to have got his feet firmly under the negotiating table at both companies and may now be looking beyond the final tying up of the Telewest saga to the far larger project of trying to bring the two bruised businesses together.. Some say he only holds about 8 per cent of Telewest, far less than the 20 per cent level that has been rumoured, and not enough to give him a blocking vote in any deal put on the table.There was also speculation that his negotiating position has not been as strong as it seemed, following suggestions that he stretched his finances too far through his involvement at NTL. His debt holdings are in the process of turning into almost as substantial equity holdings in the same companies, just as the stock market picks up and as the telecoms and technology sectors seem to be coming out of the doldrums.Quite why Mr Huff has been given such a big say in things by the boards and other parties involved is less clear. Like John Malone - another prominent American investor in UK cable companies - Mr Huff has snapped up large holdings at rock bottom prices in companies once loved by the stock market, which over extended themselves by funding massive expansion programmes by taking on more and more debt.Despite ironically having a reputation for being suspicious of new technology, not liking to use mobile phones and preferring a yahoo! email account to his work one because he does not want his correspondence to be hacked into, Mr Huff saw the likelihood the companies would recover His timing could not have been better.
One observer said: "Not all of of the bondholders are pleased. They were on the cusp of doing this deal and then it got spoiled." Another source of alarm is that Mr Huff appears to want to move Telewest to the US as a condition of the rescue deal going through in a move that would echo what happened at NTL.Mr Huff's motivation for taking an interest in both companies could not be clearer. Thanks to Mr Huff's tough tactics, shareholders are likely to walk away with just 1 per cent of Telewest, compared with the 3 per cent they were to receive previously.But it has not been popular all round. As well as receiving $1.5m in fees and expenses for his work on the deal, Mr Huff is in line to have the right to appoint two of his own representatives to the Telewest board and also to have a major say in whoever ends up as chairman and chief executive of the company.Some other bondholders have backed Mr Huff because he has managed to squeeze even more out of Telewest for bondholders. The result was the appointment of James Mooney, former chief operating officer of the US wireless group Nextel.However, critics argue he had more influence than he ought to have had at NTL and documents revealed earlier this week by The Independent show Mr Huff is lining up a very similar deal at Telewest.Telewest is yet to get the banks, bondholders and other interested parties to agree on how its debt for equity swap will work, despite working on the project for more than a year.Mr Huff has in this morass negotiated for himself an attractive package. One insider said: "Bill can be amazingly effective, but he can also blunder about.
He could not continue to be chairman because he held more than 10 per cent of the bonds, which goes against Sarbanes Oxley [the Act America introduced to tighten corporate governance after high profile failures such as Enron].""Once Bill had taken on board that he could not be chairman, he acted brilliantly. He conducted a very professional search and went through all the proper procedures," the source added. For a brief period earlier this year, he also assumed the role of acting chairman of the company after it failed to lure Lord Hollick, chief executive of United News & Media.While his tough-talking approach meant he and fellow bondholders got a better deal than they might out of the NTL restructuring, not all of those in his camp favoured his techniques. Now Mr Huff also appears to be calling the tune from across the Atlantic at Telewest.NTL parted company with Mr Knapp after a rollercoaster ride that saw the company become the UK's biggest cable operator before it collapsed into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.Mr Huff, who built his holding to more than 10 per cent of NTL's debt, got himself elected on to the board.
Anyone involved with the sector knows that Mr Huff plays his cards close to his chest and does not disclose more about his interest in companies than he has to by law.Yet this investor - described by friends as "pugnacious" and "clear minded" and by foes as a "bully" - has manoeuvred himself into a position where he played an instrumental role in the recovery of NTL, whose chief executive until last month was its ebullient founder, Barclay Knapp. His footprint is very apparent - you meet his representatives and they are very aggressive - but the man himself remains elusive."Mr Huff, who founded New-Jersey based WR Huff Asset Management 20 years ago, follows the approach of many in his sector and does not talk to the media, preferring to operate behind the scenes.He specialises in investing an estimated $5bn (£3.33bn) of funds his company has under management in corporate bonds and private equity, where stakes do not have to be disclosed in the way that shareholdings do, and he guards his privacy both in a personal and a business capacity carefully. The cable companies, whose shares stormed ahead when the stock market boomed, are now worth a tiny fraction of their former valuations. If the bulls are back on Wall Street, the vultures funds still see rich pickings on the carcasses of Britain's two biggest cable companies. Others may not be so fortunate.jeremy.warner independent.co.uk. Companies with valuations below $1bn would therefore struggle to make use of this developing market.With long-term interest rates now strongly on the rise again, the attractions of convertibles may in any case be fading. C & W managed to lock in a coupon of little more than 4 per cent on a convertible bond issue earlier this summer, which for a company rated as junk is a brilliant deal.