Virgin Media widens Q4 losses

But increases per-customer revenues and cuts churn

LONDON -- Cable TV and Internet group Virgin Media plunged deeper into the red Wednesday as it struggled to add customers in the gloomy economic climate.

Virgin Media, in which Richard Branson is the largest shareholder, reported widened fourth-quarter losses to 241 million pounds ($347 million) from 163 million pounds ($234 million) last year, despite increasing per-customer revenue and a dip in churn rates.

Revenue for the period was flat at 1.03 billion pounds ($1.48 billion) compared with 1.05 billion pounds ($1.51 billion) last year, but chief executive Neil Berkett said that monthly average revenue per user rose 0.1% at 42.24 pounds ($61) last year.

Virgin said it added 44,500 net new television customers, but this was lower than the 61,000 announced at the same stage last year, while its broadband additions also were lower, sliding to 57,100 new additions compared with 106,200 at the same stage in the year ago period.

The cable group, which has about 3.5 million U.K. homes, said it had taken a 55 million pound ($79 million) write-down on the value of its shopping channels after they failed to secure carriage on the Freeview digital platform, that it had been been affected by adverse currency transactions.

The Nasdaq-listed company operates solely in the U.K. and has been hit by the plunging value of the British pound over the past few months.

Chief executive Neil Berkett conceded that customer additions were "tailing off," citing the gloomy economic climate, but added that churn rates were at "a record low" of 1.2%, from 1.4% last year.