NTL disconnects 400 a day in efficiency drive

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The Independent Online

More than 400 people a day had their telephone and television services disconnected by NTL in the final quarter of last year as the cable company implemented an aggressive clear-out of its customer base to help sustain its recovery.

More than 400 people a day had their telephone and television services disconnected by NTL in the final quarter of last year as the cable company implemented an aggressive clear-out of its customer base to help sustain its recovery.

NTL, which is expected to merge with its rival Telewest this year, said yesterday that about 40,000 people had been disconnected during the final quarter of 2004, with another 2,000 cut off in the first three months of this year. A further 20,000 customers have been dropped from its billing system, having been found to be inactive. The company lost 78,000 customers in the final quarter through people leaving for rivals, which meant net additions were 34,200 for the quarter compared with a gross figure of 185,200.

Presenting annual results, Simon Duffy, the chief executive, said the clear-out of non-paying customers, and the imposition of a new credit policy, caused customer-churn figures to rise to a monthly rate of about 1.5 per cent of the group's 3.14 million customers. However, that rate is expected to fall this year, closer to a more normal level of 1.1 to 1.2 per cent. Mr Duffy said: "After implementing major systems improvements in 2004 and aggressively removing delinquent or non-paying customers from our customer count, we expect to add more than 200,000 customers on our network this year, including a further 20 to 25 per cent increase in our broadband customer base.".

Despite completing a major rationalisation of the company's multiple operating sites and billing systems, NTL generated a 5.7 per cent increase in sales to £2.07bn and a 12 per cent increase in underlying operating profits to £695m. The restructuring resulted in 1,200 job losses and an exceptional charge of £10.6m in the final quarter.

NTL benefited from more effective marketing activities during 2004 focused on the "triple play" of supplying customers with telephone, television and internet services in one bundle. Full-year consumer revenues were £1.5bn, up 8.7 per cent over 2003, largely reflecting the 40 per cent growth in broadband subscribers to 1.33 million.

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