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Microsoft eyes Deutsche Telekom cable unit

Deutsche Bank confirms it is in discussions with Microsoft about the sale of Deutsche Telekom's cable operations.

Deutsche Bank confirmed this morning it is in discussions with Microsoft about the sale of Deutsche Telekom's cable operations.

"Yes, we are in talks," said a Deutsche Bank spokesperson. But it is too early tell the extent of the partnership, he said. "We will either work together or go on separately."

Initial bidding for the cable operation closes today with Deutsche Bank an early favorite. But the process will likely drag on longer, said the spokesperson. "It's a very early phase of bidding. It won't be decided within the next week."

Microsoft's role is unclear, and Deutsche Bank would not elaborate. A Microsoft representative would not comment on the report.

If Microsoft takes a stake in the cable operation, it would be the latest in a string of similar investments. Earlier this week, Microsoft said it will invest $126 million in Brazilian cable TV operator Globo Cabo as part of a plan to expand high-speed Internet services. In May, Microsoft invested $5 billion in AT&T with an eye toward AT&T's MediaOne cable operation. And last year, Microsoft invested $1 billion in Comcast, then the fourth-largest cable company in the United States.

Deutsche Telekom, Europe's largest phone company, decided to dump its cable operations due to antitrust issues and the resources needed to upgrade the network for Internet and telecommunications use.

Nine cable units are up for grabs with a reported 18 million subscribers. The investment bank of NM Rothschild & Sons is handling the sale, which is scheduled to conclude in September or October.

Initially, Deutsche Telekom planned to keep a 25 percent in the cable operation, but now is looking to unload everything.

Deutsche Telekom's price target for the cable properties is $16.5 billion, according to German news agencies, but other sources reported the cable unit's value could be $30 billion or more.