US-owned NTL, Britain’s largest cable operator, appears to be recovering from its recent financial restructuring, having expanded its subscriber base for the first time in over a year.

The group added 27,100 net new customers to its NTL Home service in the first quarter, bringing the total to 2.71 million. However, it has some way to go to retrieve the 174,000 subscribers lost last year as it pursued a $10.6 billion (€9.3bn; £6.5bn) debt-for-equity restructuring. Also, its cable-TV unit continued to lose customers, shedding 17,600 over the quarter (though this was the slowest rate of decline for over a year).

NTL managed to cut net losses to £157m in the quarter, down 45% from Q1 2002, despite a fall in sales from £556m to £547m. EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) rose from £143m to £157m.

Chief executive Barclay Knapp boasted that the firm is outperforming its post-restructuring business plan. “In cash terms we are £26m ahead of where we said we would be.”

He added that NTL had decided to focus on its existing network rather than expanding its reach. “We did aspire to be a national player,” he continued, “but we are concentrating on being a regional player – selling services on our own network – for the time being.”

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff