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Virgin cables wider message to UK homes

06 мая 2009

Virgin Media will expand its cable network by up to half a million UK homes over the next few years and has begun commercial trials of broadband speeds up to four times faster than its current maximum, Neil Berkett, chief executive, said.

The announcement came as the company revealed a fall in first-quarter revenue and a small increase in customers that were in line with market expectations.

Mr Berkett said Virgin Media would probably issue its first figures on the customer take-up of its fastest speed broadband, 50 Megabits per second, with its interim results in August.

Trials were under way in about 100 homes in Ashford, Kent, where families were using 200 Mbps broadband. Asked what this might be used for, he suggested 3D video conferencing.

“Two years ago, when we were testing 50Mbps, you would have asked what that was needed for,” Mr Berkett said. “In two years’ time, where people are now asking about how many people are taking up 50Mbps, they will be asking what is the take-up of 200Mbps.”

The cable network of Virgin Media reaches about 12.5m UK homes and it has 3.7m broadband and 3.6m television customers.

The Nasdaq-traded company reported first-quarter revenue down from £947.3m to £935.7m on the back of fewer business customers and fewer broadband off-net customers – those who are not in cable areas.

Losses were £123.3m compared with a deficit of £109.2m the year before. Losses per share widened from 31p to 41p.

Average revenue per user increased year-on-year for the third successive quarter from £41.95 to £42.29. The number of customers leaving Virgin in the quarter fell to a record low of 1.1 per cent.

In the period Virgin Media added 7,100 customers, compared with analyst forecasts of a loss of 2,000 customers.

Content from ITV on Virgin’s on-demand platform attracted 4m viewers, or 6 per cent of the total month’s views in March. ITV signed a syndication deal with Virgin last January offering viewers access to popular programmes.

Mr Berkett pointed to an increase in video-on-demand (VOD) use from 36m in the same period in 2008 to 55m now.

However, Toby Syfret, analyst with Enders Analysis, said: “Given that it includes both the iPlayer and ITVPlayer, that number is no more or no less than you would expect and it doesn’t suggest that VOD is going to be a huge effect.”

The shares fell 6.3 per cent, or 52 cents, to $7.72.

Источник: Financial Times

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