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ZURICH, Oct 9 (Reuters)Liberty Global LBTYA.O cleared a key hurdle in its all-cash 6.8 billion Swiss franc ($7.43 billion) tender for Switzerland’s Sunrise Communications SRCG.S, with provisional results on Friday showing an acceptance rate of nearly 82%.

In the surprise deal announced in August, Liberty Global offered 110 Swiss francs per share in Sunrise, Switzerland’s No. 2 telecoms company. One condition was that it get at least two thirds of the shares.

Shares closed on Thursday at 109 francs, up 43% this year.

An additional acceptance period now runs until Oct. 28. Liberty Global intends to initiate a squeeze-out procedure and delist Sunrise shares from trading on the SIX Swiss Exchange once the deal is set.

The agreed deal reversed Sunrise’s failed bid to buy Liberty’s Swiss business last year and marked a strategic reversal by the U.S. company, which had been divesting European assets.

Sunrise’s bid to buy Liberty Global’s Swiss cable business UPC last year collapsed in the face of opposition from Sunrise’s biggest shareholder, Germany’s Freenet FNTGn.DE, and activist investors including Axxion and AOC, who baulked at the price.

Freenet, which owns 24% of Sunrise, had committed to tender its shares for Liberty Global’s bid.

The deal, which is subject to regulatory approval, is the latest sign of consolidation in the telecom industry as companies try to cut costs and ramp up investments in technology.

($1 = 0.9154 Swiss francs)

(Reporting by Michael Shields; Editing by Maria Sheahan)

(([email protected]; +41 41 528 3630; Reuters Messaging: [email protected]))

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The announcement comes as tens of thousands of airline employees face the possibility of furloughs if Congress is unable to reach a deal to extend a separate grant program that gave airlines billions of dollars if they agreed to keep workers on the job through the end of September. While negotiations continue, a deal must be reached before midnight Wednesday.

“The payroll support and loan programs created by the CARES Act have saved a large number of aviation industry jobs, and kept workers employed and connected to their health care, during an unprecedented time,” Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in a statement. “We are pleased to conclude loans that will support this critical industry while ensuring appropriate taxpayer compensation.”

Mnuchin also said Congress must extend the payroll support program, “so we can continue to support aviation industry workers as our economy reopens and we continue on the path to recovery.”

At least three other carriers, Delta Air Lines, Southwest Airlines and Spirit Airlines, which signed letters of intent to accept the loans in July, said they will no longer participate in the loan program. Their decision frees additional money for other carriers. Treasury officials said airlines would be eligible for up to $7.5 billion, or 30 percent of the $25 billion available under the program.

“Our national leaders did a tremendous job developing innovative and effective programs to support the aviation industry, which is critical to the U.S. economy,” Spirit Airlines chief executive Ted Christie said in a statement announcing the decision earlier this month. “Ultimately, as a responsible company, we’re all about self-help and we decided it was our duty to avoid burdening the U.S. taxpayer if we had access to viable alternatives in the private market.”

Not all the loan amounts were made public. Treasury officials said that