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EDITIONS
Monday, 10 June, 2002, 22:01 GMT 23:01 UK
KPNQwest deadline extended
Europe's largest fibre-optic data network, owned by bankrupt KPNQwest, did not close on Monday night as widely feared after the company's trustees gave its clients more time to pay their bills.

The clients, which include parent firm KPN - the Dutch telecoms firm - as well as ABN AMRO, Dell and Hewlett-Packard, have been told that KPNQwest will now stay open until around noon on Tuesday, a source close to the ongoing crisis talks told Reuters.

"The administrators are willing to extend the deadline to give customers more time to actually transfer the funds, provided they give binding commitments to pay," the source said.

If KPNQwest cannot raise enough cash in time, it will have to shut down its network, but the source insisted that "things are looking better and better".

New hopes

KPN, which owns 40% of KPNQwest and is also its biggest customer, raised hopes that the network could avoid closure when it pledged to pay several million of the 23m euros (14.88m; $21.74m) it owes to its subsidiary.

But other clients are fleeing, taking their business to one or other of KPNQwest's many competitors.

Among them was Europe's leading pay-TV operator, United Pan-Europe Communications, which said it would shift its broadband web access business elsewhere

A possible buyer for KPNQwest has also emerged in the form of Ireland's eTel, which is keen to take over the company's profitable central European business.

Other buyers are also circling the fallen firm, a source said, insisting that both telecoms and financial firms were interested.

But any buyer would pay only a fraction of the 42bn euros KPNQwest was once thought to be worth.

The only people likely to make back any money from such a sale are its banks.

The company's owners and bondholders are unlikely to recover their investments.

See also:

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