Losses at Thus soar to £36m as Net hits premium phone lines

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THUS, the telecoms company, yesterday reported a dramatic fall in its consumer business, as it said it had received a £100m boost in funding from its parent, ScottishPower.

THUS, the telecoms company, yesterday reported a dramatic fall in its consumer business, as it said it had received a £100m boost in funding from its parent, ScottishPower.

The company, which owns the Demon internet service provider, said turnover grew by just 3 per cent to £103.9m for the six months to 30 September. The operating loss from continuing business grew to £35.6m, from £6.8m previously.

Thus said growth was held back by a decline in consumer services. This was led by a 40 per cent drop in premium-rate interactive services, lower residential telephony revenues, and a decline in the number of internet dial-up subscribers.

Barry Shine, deputy finance director, said there had been a fall in use of premium-rate numbers, which offer information on topics such as weather and football. "There is a general fall-out of premium-rate services as information becomes available on the internet," he said.

Internet and interactive revenues fell to £48.8m from £56.5m, while UK internet dial-up subscribers dropped 8 per cent over the first half to 177,000.

Mr Shine said: "It's the consumer side of our business that was hit hard. Business growth was strong. We are in a transition phase, from being a regional provider of conventional telecoms services to a national provider of internet and data services to business." Business sales were up 24 per cent in the first half to £67.1m. Mr Shine said future growth would come from this sector.

However, analysts said the business figures were not impressive. One said: "Colt [Telecom] is growing business revenues at 50 per cent and Energis at 70 per cent. What's 24 per cent growth in this market?"

ScottishPower, which owns 50 per cent of Thus, has extended the revolving working capital facility put in place at November's flotation by £100m to £320m. Thus said this would fund its business plan up to the end of the 2002-03 financial year.

Thus shares closed up 8p at 88p as analysts pointed out that there had been a profits warning earlier this year. The stock floated at 310p and reached 844.5p in March.

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