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Thursday, 7 November, 2002, 11:49 GMT
Telewest narrows losses
Cables
Telewest's problems began with a telecom slowdown
Struggling cable firm Telewest has unveiled narrower losses, saying it aims to become the leading force within the cable TV and telecommunications industry.

The firm said on Thursday that pre-tax losses for the nine months to late September fell to 397m ($600m) from 593m during the same period last year, while turnover rose 3.7% to 962m.

Telewest said its stronger performance reflected cost cuts and higher revenues from its ultra-fast broadband internet access service.

However, it admitted that subscriber numbers had fallen by about 12,000 during the three months to September, blaming price increases and more rigorous enforcement of its disconnection policies.

The company added that it hoped to become the leading cable telephony company once an ongoing debt restructuring exercise was completed.

Debt talks

"All of us now look forward to the resolution of our balance sheet problems so we can realise, without distraction, our belief in the potential of our business," said Telewest managing director Charles Burdick.

The heavily-indebted firm is edging closer to a restructuring deal under which bondholders would take control of most of the company in return for cancelling about 3.5bn worth of debt.

Telewest's existing shareholders would be left with just 3% of the company.

The deal still requires the approval of Telewest's banks and major shareholders, who include media mogul John Malone, owner of Liberty Media.

Overextended

Telewest borrowed heavily to build its UK cable network during the late 1990s, but found it difficult to service its debts as the telecoms sector fell into recession two years ago.

Last month, the firm missed bond interest payments worth 68.5m.

The debt restructuring exercise is similar to one undertaken earlier this year by the UK's other main cable TV company NTL.

There has been speculation that the two firms, which operate in different franchise areas in the UK, could merge once they have overcome their financial difficulties.

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