NTL losses increase as customers leave

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NTL, the cable operator, said on Wednesday it would rebrand itself as Virgin Media next year, as it reported wider losses in the third quarter following the heavy loss of customers and the one-off cost of the acquisition of Telewest and Virgin Mobile.

NTL said it had incurred a net loss of 37,300 customers in the quarter after 55,000 had their service disconnected. It said more than two-thirds of these resulted from customers moving out of the areas it serves.

However, fierce competition for broadband, telephone and pay-television customers was also to blame.

The newly merged group is battling large rivals such as British Sky Broadcasting, BT, and Carphone Warehouse which are spending millions to market their bundles of entertainment and communications products.

NTL is hoping that the rebranding to a more fashionable name like Virgin will turn the tide in its favour, compared with its earlier bad image that stemmed from its admittedly poor customer service in the days before its acquisition of Telewest.

Steve Burch, chief executive, said: “Virgin Media will exploit its unique ability to offer a ‘quad-play’ of digital TV, broadband, mobile, and home phone services to deliver an unrivalled choice of high quality content and communication packages.”

In broadband, third quarter net additions were 78,000, down from 104,900 in the second quarter after 58,000 disconnections.

The customer losses across the consumer division meant that revenue was down £1.9m compared with the second quarter to £642.8m, while business revenues rose from £160.1m to £162.3m sequentially.

Operating losses across the group widened £9.6 from £4.7m in the third quarter last year, while net loss almost doubled to £104.2m from £53.5m due to higher interest charges as a result of borrowings to finance the Telewest and Virgin Mobile acquisitions.

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