NTL revs on the rocks, subs sink

Cable operator focused on cutting debt

LONDON — NTL, the U.K.’s largest cable operator, lost 17,600 subscribers and watched its revenue dip by 9.6 million pounds ($15.5 million) to $882 million for the first three months ended March 31, its first post-restructuring quarter.

It attributed the lower revenue to challenging conditions related to its restructuring. NTL has been focusing on cutting its remaining $6.6 billion debt rather than wooing subscribers — it now has just over 2 million subs.

Capital expenditure was down $38 million to $133 million while operating cash flow was up $36.3 million to $119 million. Cost-cutting helped lift earnings slightly to $253 million.

NTL adopted fresh-start reporting to reflect its emergence from Chapter 11 in January; as a result, it reported $6.8 billion in exceptional income for the quarter. The gain is associated with discharge of a portion of NTL’s debt.

On the upside, it’s managed to bring its churn rate down to 13% from 17.9% in the same period last year. Company is also trying to convert more subscribers to digital; only 62% (1,235,000) of customers have so far switched over. Broadband subs have risen by 143,800 to 660,900, but the company warned that the growth rate is likely to slow.

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