Virgin recovers from BSkyB row

Cabler adds 13,000 customers

LONDON — Virgin Media, the U.K. cable giant, added 13,000 new customers in the third quarter of the year.

Announcing results for the three months to Sept. 30, acting CEO Neil Berkett hailed the figures as a “significant turnaround.”

In the previous quarter, Virgin Media, launched in February following the merger of NTL and Telewest, lost more than 70,000 customers due to a row with rival BSkyB over carriage fees, which saw channels like Sky One withdrawn from Virgin.

Berkett said the figures, which surprised analysts who had expected further losses, were the best since NTL and Telewest merged in March 2006.

During the three months to Sept. 30, the Nasdaq-quoted giant, whose CEO Steve Burch quit suddenly in August, added 20,400 new TV subscribers and 115,800 new broadband customers.

Virgin’s sales were down slightly year on year — from $2.04 billion to $2 billion, with a net loss of $122 million, a big improvement on last year, when the figure was $600 million.

Berkett said: “With the cable merger integration expected to be complete by end year, we can focus on continuing to improve the fundamentals, enhancing our products, reducing our churn, and delivering on our competitive strengths.”

He added that he would “love to cut a deal” with BSkyB in the long-running dispute over payments for Sky channels.

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