Liberty subs pressure, more buy backs

Pressure from low priced DTH and IPTV services in its Central European markets dragged on Liberty's UPC cable net results for Q1 with the loss of 57,000 video subscribers.

Nonetheless other measures were strong with total RGU bas up 7 per cent or 1.6m since March last year, 348,000 RGUs were added in the quarter, 302,000 of them from existing subs. Although there are major variations across the various territories, average ARPU was across UPC Broadband was E22.8 compared to E21.3 a year ago.

Revenue for the three months ended March 31, 2008 increased 24 per cent to $2.6 billion from $2.1 billion for the three months ended March 31, 2007, though excluding exchange benefits sees revenue increased 8 per cent year on year. The net loss for the period was $156 million against $136 million last time. The company said the increase was down to increased interest and income tax expenses and higher losses on derivative instruments. These increased losses came despite operating income reaching $358m, almost double Q1 07.

President and CEO Mike Fries confirmed liberty would step up its buy back programme adding another $500m to the pot: “Since activity in the M&A market remains slow, we continue to be aggressive buyers of our own stock. Since the beginning of the year, we have purchased approximately 7 per cent of our equity at a total approximate cost of $910 million. At the end of April, we had approximately $150 million remaining under our existing repurchase program which, when combined with the(new) $500 million increase we brings our total repurchase availability to approximately $650 million. In addition, we had approximately $800 million of corporate cash generally accessible to LGI at March 31, as well as $1.7 billion of credit facility. Going forward, shareholders should expect us to continue to be opportunistic purchasers of our equity.”

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