Battered US cable group Telewest, whose core operations are UK-based, announced Thursday a pre-tax loss of £2.2 billion ($3.45bn; €3.20bn) for the fiscal year to December 2002. Much of this deficit is attributable to an asset writeoff of £1.64bn. However, the underlying loss narrowed from £801m in 2001 to £506m; while sales rose from £1.32bn to £1.35bn.

Telewest, like its rival NTL (also US owned), is now paying the price for over-expansion during the boom years of the late nineties when – cheered on by the investment banks – both companies splurged recklessly on swallowing British-owned rivals such as Cable & Wireless.

Many onlookers wonder to what extent the health of today’s UK cable industry would differ had the Conservative government of the day not barred British Telecom from competing in the marketplace.

Meantime, Telewest chief executive Charles Burdick was not forthcoming with the information that would give most comfort to investors – the progress of the group’s £3.5 billion debt restructuring. Agreement to the deal is still awaited from two of the prime players, Liberty Media and Deutsche Telekom.

Data sourced from: Financial Times; additional content by WARC staff