Telewest shares soar on positive results

U.K. cabler has 70,000 broadband subs

LONDON — Shares in U.K. cable operator Telewest soared as much as 26% in early trading Thursday as core third quarter profits and broadband take-up exceeded expectations.

Profits before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization were up 32% to £83 million ($119 million) to Sept. 30.

Britain’s no. 2 cabler also had 70,000 broadband Internet subscribers by Nov. 14, making the company the market leader in broadband, a potentially very lucrative sector.

Telewest’s total sub base was almost 1.75 million to the end of the quarter. Of these, 1.32 million were TV customers, up 5,400 despite an increase in retail costs. Roughly half were digital TV subscribers.

The company’s TV churn rate declined 10% to 18.7%, and average per home monthly sales increased to nearly $58, slightly better than NTL, the U.K.’s no. 1 cabler, as well as satcaster BSkyB.

Sales in the quarter were $447 million, up from $401 million. Losses, largely due to digital investment, however, widened to $260 million from $247 million a year ago.

Telewest said it expected to break even in 2004, in line with analyst forecasts.

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