Debt beset Anglo-US cable operator NTL , Britain's largest, bled subscribers at the rate of eight hundred a day during its first quarter. In the three months to March 31, net churn saw 73,000 residential customers desert what many saw as a sinking ship.

During this period, the company also shelled-out an eyewatering $95 million (€100.48m; £64.62m) in advisors’ fees and other charges to the denizens of Wall Street and the City of London – a sum sufficient to recruit 4,184 newly qualified nurses to the nation’s overstretched National Health Service.

However, there is a faint silver lining to NTL’s murky cloud. First quarter EBITDA (earnings before interest, tax depreciation and amortization) went positive in the UK at $194.3m – the first such happy event in its history. Group EBITDA also rose from $124.7m last year to $256m.

But a cash drought could threaten growth targets for 2002, the group warned. Plans to cut back on customer acquisition costs and squeeze more money out of its current subscriber base are threatened by its shrinking bank balance.

But chief executive Barclay Knapp demonstrated the power of positive thinking: “We remain on track to improve the state of our balance sheet and come out of the recapitalization process looking to resume our growth engine,” he glossed. Our plan is to control our costs in the first half and then resume spending in the back half of the year.”

NTL will appear before a US court next week to solicit approval for its restructuring, in which bondholders will assume total control of its core UK and Ireland businesses.

Data sourced from multiple publications; additional content by WARC staff