LONDON, April 24 Cable operator Virgin Media
posted a 54 percent rise in first quarter free cash
flow and announced a series of major business deals on
Wednesday, showing the attraction of a company that is about to
be sold to Liberty Global.
Virgin, which is to be sold to John Malone's Liberty
for $15.75 billion in stock and cash, added 8,600 new
customers during the three months to the end of March.
That was below forecasts of 15,000 new additions, but like
previous quarters, the company increased levels of customer
loyalty and extracted more cash from each user with a price
rise, allowing it to drive the company's overall financial
Virgin's Business division, which competes with the likes of
BT to provide connectivity to regional governments and
corporations, also signed three new large contracts with
telecoms groups BSkyB, Telefonica and a third
operator, which a person familiar with the situation said was
The solid operating performance meant free cash flow was up
54 percent to 135 million pounds ($206 million), slightly ahead
of forecasts and benefiting from the heavy investment the
company made into its broadband network last year.
"This positive momentum in the business positions us well
for our planned merger with Liberty Global," outgoing Chief
Executive Neil Berkett said.
The first quarter results are likely to be the last set made
by Virgin before the deal completes.
Analysts at Goldman Sachs said the results showed that
customers had accepted the price rise, and that the three new
business wins helped a division which had otherwise slightly