Virgin brought down by Sit-up TV, foreign exchange

UK cable operator Virgin Media reported a growing customer base in the fourth quarter, but results were still down year-on-year across its cable, business and mobile activities.

Fourth-quarter revenues fell to £1.033 billion (€1.159 billion) from £1.051 billion a year ago, and the net loss widened to GBP 241.4 million from GBP 163.2 million a year earlier.

Virgin Media took a charge of GBP 54.2 million on its Sit-up TV business, which has now been put under strategic review, and suffered  foreign exchange losses in the period.

Restructuring charges cost the company £16 million in Q4 and associated expenses will cost another £70-80 million in 2009. The company said it's on track to yield £120 million in reduced operating costs by 2012.

Virgin Media added 44,500 new TV customers in the quarter, below last year's total of 61,100, and finished the year with a total 3.621 million cable subscribers. Cable ARPU increased slightly to GBP 42.30, from GBP 41.94 in Q3 and GBP 42.24 a year earlier.

The broadband user base grew to 3.935 million from 3.886 million in September, but net additions were down sequentially and year-on-year due to a general market slowdown. The number of fixed telephony users rose by 21,200 in the quarter to 4.205 million. Triple-play penetration improved to 55.9% at the quarter-end, compared to 49.5% a year ago.