Carphone on track for a March split

CARPHONE Warehouse said yesterday that it signed up more broadband customers than expected in its second quarter, and that it is on-track to demerge the business in March 2010.<br /><br />The long-awaited demerger of its telecoms and retail businesses has been delayed due to the problems of valuation during the economic downturn.<br /><br />&ldquo;The worst seems to be over... but there&rsquo;s not much grounds for there to be a huge upturn in the economy either,&rdquo; said Carphone&rsquo;s finance director Roger Taylor, playing down hopes of a rapid recovery in consumer spending.<br /><br />&ldquo;We see this current consumer environment potentially sustained for another 12 to 18 months,&rdquo; he said.<br /><br />Carphone, the second-biggest UK broadband provider behind BT, said in its trading statement that it added a net 77,000 broadband subscribers to its TalkTalk telecoms unit in the period, beating forecasts of 41,000. It was boosted by its focus on the low-priced end of the market.<br /><br />Its recently acquired Tiscali UK business lost a net 62,000 broadband subscribers, which Carphone said was in line with its expectations. The firm said it would receive a rebate on the originally agreed deal because of the loss of custom.<br /><br />Customer connections at Best Buy Europe, Carphone&rsquo;s retail joint venture with US electricals group Best Buy, were up two per cent to 3.17m, also just above forecasts.<br /><br />Despite the stronger than expected numbers, Carphone kept its full-year guidance to increase earnings per share by 10 per cent, including the Tiscali deal.<br /><br />Taylor also confirmed that Best Buy Europe would open the first of its megastores in April next year, with the first two opening in Southampton and Thurrock.