CASH-strapped communications group NTL is set to announce how it plans to refinance debts of around £12billion in a bid to stave off bankruptcy.

The firm, based at Bartley Wood Business Park in Hook, saw the crippling debts mount up following a rapid £21.25billion expansion programme in which it acquired franchises, customers, cable networks and infrastructure.

Since the company was taken public in 1993 its biggest acquisition was the £8billion purchase of Cable and Wireless's consumer operations which was completed in May 2000.

That deal alone saw NTL take on almost £2bn of debt.

NTL now needs cash to continue funding its business plan and to meet the interest payments on its debt as well as to finish paying for certain acquisitions as fears mount that the company could breach some of the covenants attached to its borrowings.

Market analysts estimate as little as around nine months' worth of cash is in the bank and the group is said to have appointed the investment bank Credit Suisse First Boston to help it restructure its finances in a last-ditch bid to avoid collapse.

NTL had been expected to update the market on its revised business plan in December when it announced it was cutting 4,000 jobs nationwide — but this was put off until the end of January.

Bosses have refused to confirm or deny whether job cuts would affect its Hook headquarters.

The group, which is listed on the New York stock exchange and has operations in Germany, Sweden, France and Switzerland, has denied speculation that it would use the update to say it could only pay half of its debts.

When it announced the job cuts last year the group told investors it had "no liquidity issues" and was not in danger of breaching any of its banking covenants.

The group's £12billion debt is split between banks and bondholders — around £5bn is bank debt.

NTL declined to comment on speculation that bondholders could be offered shares in the group in a debt-for-equity swap.

It also refuted reports that financial difficulties were leading to delays in paying its suppliers.

Investors in the troubled group will be hoping the statement will do more than just publicly admit that a restructuring programme is now underway, by outlining a clear action plan.