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Telewest sales soar; pre-tax loss up

U.K.'s No. 2 cable operator finally past 500,000 mark

LONDON — Telewest has unveiled better-than-expected annual results, posting sales of £1.1 billion ($1.57 billion) — an increase of 42%. The U.K.’s No. 2 cable operator has now also finally passed the 500,000 mark in digital TV subscribers.

Telewest, however, saw a widened pre-tax loss of $1 billion, up from $758 million, to Dec. 31, related to costs incurred in merging with TV programmer Flextech, the acquisition of cabler Eurobell and digital investment.

Debt is now at $6.3 billion, though Telewest has restructured part of its debt in a $3.2 billion refinancing deal (Daily Variety, March 20).

Telewest had a particularly difficult 2000, even given the general downturn in the fortunes of media stocks in Europe.

A key problem was a shortage of set-top boxes, causing Telewest to miss its target of a half-million digital subs by the end of last year.

NTL, Britain’s other and bigger cable operator, recently revealed it has 650,000 digital subs. The market leader is satcaster BSkyB, with around 5 million; terrestrial platform ONdigital has more than 1 million.

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