Bolt runs Virgin Media to record first quarter

VIRGIN Media yesterday reported record first quarter revenues as it raced past the £1bn line on the back of a prominent ad campaign featuring Usain Bolt.

The Branson-branded media company grew revenues 2.4 per cent to just over £1bn while operating income climbed 18 per cent to £131m.

Virgin Media boasted its lowest customer churn in two years as it reported gaining 21,200 net new customers in the period, its strongest growth in two years.

The Usain Bolt advertising campaign was the most recognised advert in February, the company said.

But while boosting customer retention figures, the expensive campaign dented the firm’s free cash flow which dropped 13 per cent to £87.1m.

The famous advert, which notified Virgin Media’s customers of the doubling of their broadband speeds, increased the group’s superfast broadband base by a fifth to 843,600.

Virgin Media considers speeds of 30Mb and above to be superfast broadband, and said it completed the roll-out of its 100Mb connection during the quarter, several months earlier than planned.

The company saw a 7.1 per cent growth in its corporate division’s revenue to £170m, but said that it did not see the deal between Vodafone and Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which has a large roster of blue chip clients, as a threat due to its business arm leaning more towards SMEs and local authorities.

Virgin Media chief executive Neil Berkett also pointed to TiVo, the “mass-market connected TV service” it launched last year, where the customer base grew by 56 per cent.

These results follow Virgin Media’s first ever annual profit after decades of the UK cable industry languishing in losses.

Its London-listed shares jumped by 1.7 per cent to £14.99.