Telewest takeovers take toll

Sales up 14.8%, but cabler reports $422 mil loss

LONDON — U.K. cabler Telewest reported an increased loss of £264 million ($422 million) for the first half of the year, blaming the financing costs of its recent takeovers.

Telewest, which will remain the U.K.’s largest cable operator until rival NTL completes its acquisition of CWC, confirmed plans to launch its digital TV service in November.

It also announced a strategic partnership with Microsoft Networks to start high-speed Internet trials early next year.

Microsoft is already set to acquire a 29.9% stake in Telewest, whose other main shareholder is John Malone’s Liberty Media.

Sales up 14.8%

The cabler’s sales grew 14.8% to $608 million in the half-year. The pre-tax loss of $422 million compares with a deficit of $227 million in 1998. Since then, Telewest has taken over General Cable and Birmingham Cable.

Positive signs include a significant increase in TV penetration rates to 24.9%, and a reduction of churn to 26.7%. Telephony penetration also edged upwards to 31.3%.

Telewest’s systems now reach 4.03 million homes, with 1 million TV subscribers and 1.26 million telephone customers.

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