NTL to rebrand as Virgin Media

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LONDON -- British cable operator NTL:Telewest said Wednesday it will rebrand itself Virgin Media next year, as it announced heavy customer defections and widened losses for the three months ended Sept. 30.

The Nasdaq-listed cable operator, which acquired cell phone business Virgin Mobile in July, said third-quarter net losses almost doubled to £96.1 million ($183.1 million) from £52.1 million at the same stage last year, despite strong growth in revenues to £1 billion ($1.9 billion) from £483 million a year ago, reflecting the addition of the Virgin Mobile business.

But it is the customer losses and slower take-up of high-speed broadband services that will cause investors the greatest alarm.

NTL announced a net loss of 37,300 subscribers during the period, after a total of 55,000 terminated their contracts. By contrast, rival BSkyB announced customer gains of 83,000 when it revealed its results for the same period last week.

NTL also saw the number of new broadband additions drop to 78,000, down from 104,900 in the previous three-month period after 58,000 subscribers quit the service. NTL is facing significantly increased competition in the high-speed Internet access market from broadband rivals including British Telecom, BSkyB and Carphone Warehouse -- which recently acquired the customers of AOL U.K.

NTL chief executive Steve Burch said the rebranding program will improve the profile of NTL services.

"Today, we are announcing a change in our company name to Virgin Media and our plans to rebrand our existing consumer division early next year, backed by a significant media campaign," he said in a statement.

"Virgin Media will exploit its unique ability to offer a quad-play of digital TV, broadband, mobile and home phone services to deliver an unrivaled choice of high-quality content and communication packages. We believe this will significantly enhance our competitiveness and growth opportunities in 2007."
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