Forecasted sales slam Telenet stock

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BRUSSELS -- Belgian cable operator Telenet took a battering on the stock market here Tuesday, falling 8.5% after releasing lower than expected forecasts for 2008.

Telenet group, which is 52%-controlled by John Malone's Liberty Global, said it expected sales to rise by just 5%-6% this year.

Telenet CEO Duco Sickinghe said the company will focus on controlling costs in 2008.

"We remain cautious about the increasingly challenging environment we operate in, which is currently being driven by strong competition, the ongoing rapid pace of technological change and increasing national and European regulation," he said.

Belgium has a dynamic cable and Internet market. Cable has a 99% penetration in the country, Telenet is pioneering its interactive digital TV service, and telecoms rival Belgacom holds Belgian football's TV rights.

Telenet has blazed a new trail with broadcasts, offering the Flemish movie "Vermist" in its VOD library while it is still running in cinemas. Last year, Telenet also set a record, offering "300" on VOD the day it went on sale as a DVD.

The share dip came despite an earnings rise of 21% in 2007 to 2.9 million euros ($647.8 million), boosted by sales of Internet broadband and television services.

Telenet's 2007 revenue was 31.9 million euros ($1.37 billion), up 15% from 2006's €813.5 million ($1.2 billion). Net profit for 2007 rose to 20.7 million euros ($30.5 million) from 8.5 million euros ($12.5 million).

The group also reported a total of 3.5 million customers to its various services, up 315,000 year-to-year. That includes 1.7 million cable TV customers (up 6% from 2006), 420,000 premium pay TV subscribers (up 58%, including a 73% jump in subscribers to its iDTV service), and 873,000 broadband customers (up 20%).
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