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Telewest losses widen despite leap in sales to pounds 55m

Losses at Telewest, Britain's largest cable operator, widened to pounds 38.5m from pounds 23.6m in the first six months of 1994, reflecting the company's start-up status and increased funds allocated to network building.

Sales climbed to pounds 55.4m from pounds 31.2m last time, and the total network is about 46 per cent-built. Telewest said its subscriber base for cable television had grown 52 per cent year-on-year to June 1995, but this was outstripped by much faster growth in the number of telephony customers. Residential telephony subscriptions were up 140 per cent to nearly 177,000, while business custom lines expanded by 105 per cent to more than 21,000.

Much of the growth in penetration rates for cable has been fuelled by the industry's ability to undercut BT for the provision of basic residential and business phone service. But BT has begun to fight back, and the cable industry has shifted focus to cable programming as a big selling point. "The better operators will be able to benefit from new programming coming on stream in the autumn," one analyst said.

One of the UK's leading cable and satellite programmer suppliers, Flextech, is to bring the Playboy Channel to British pay-TV viewers in October.

Flextech, announcing interim figures yesterday, is expecting to expand further in the creation and development of specialist programming for the UK pay-TV industry. The company reported a loss of pounds 7.9m in the first six months, down from pounds 9.6m a year earlier. Turnover nearly doubled to pounds 15.3m on higher advertising revenues and fees from subscriptions.