John Malone's Liberty Global Posts Improved First-Quarter Financials

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The largest cable operator in Europe says it's on track to complete the acquisition of Britain's Virgin Media before mid-year.

LONDON -- John Malone's Liberty Global, the largest cable operator in Europe, reported higher first-quarter financials amid growth in Belgium and Germany.

The company also said it remains on track to complete the acquisition of U.K. cable giant Virgin Media before mid-year. Liberty Global has received regulatory approval from the European Commission, with both companies' shareholders set to vote on the deal in early June.

Liberty Global added 373,000 new total product subscriptions in the first quarter to hit a total of 35.2 million. Wunderlich Securities analyst Matthew Harrigan said that beat his estimate of 362,000 additions.

ISI Media analyst Vijay Jayant called the subscriber gain "a strong result in the face of some pockets of intensifying competition."

Liberty Global lost 92,000 video subscribers in the quarter, slightly more than analysts had expected. But it signed up 233,000 (net) new broadband customers, beating expectations, and 231,000 telephony users.

The subscriber growth boosted first-quarter revenue 5.8 percent to $2.77 billion. On an operating basis, earnings rose 5 percent to $525 million. On a net basis, however, Liberty Global posted a loss of $1 million, compared with a year-ago loss of $25 million.

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