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Cable & Wireless Optus posts profit in turnaround

Figure is 48% higher than prospectus forecasts

SYDNEY — Australian feevee and telephony group Cable & Wireless Optus on Thursday announced a yearly profit of $73 million on revenues of $2.2 billion.

The result marks a big turnaround from last year’s $61.4 million loss. The profit figure is 48% higher than the prospectus forecasts from Optus’ $700 million IPO last November.

Optus chief exec Chris Anderson said the result was driven by strong perfs in mobile and local telephony, and Internet and multimedia, but was silent about the group’s struggling feevee biz, which is languishing with 213,000 subscribers, trailing Rupert Murdoch’s and Kerry Packer’s Foxtel (500,000) and UnitedGlobalCom’s Austar (350,000).

As well as reducing staff, the feevee unit slashed an estimated 40% off its programming costs by talking the Disney Channel into reducing its fees by $56 million, while movie suppliers Warner Bros., Disney and MGM took $165 million off their fees.

Chairman Ralph Robbins moved to quash speculation that 53% stakeholder C&W was seeking to sell Optus, saying the British carrier had no intention of selling any part of its Oz business.

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