Germany, UK boost Liberty Global in Q3, advanced TV passes four million

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries.

Liberty Global CEO, Mike Fries.

Strong European subscriber growth helped boost Liberty Global’s third quarter results, with the UK and Germany leading the way. 

The pan-regional cable and pay TV operator also saw its advanced TV customer base – comprising Virgin Media TiVo subscribers and households with the Horizon service across Europe – pass the four million milestone during the period.

While revenue rose, the group saw a drop in operating income for the period.

Liberty Global posted 320,000 revenue-generating unit net additions, including 296,000 in Europe. These included 102,000 RGUs in Germany, 68,000 in the UK and 26,000 in Belgium.

The TiVo and Horizon platforms together attracted 339,000 new subscribers in the third quarter.

The group notched up 200,000 new broadband customers in the period, led by the UK and Germany.

Virgin Media added 42,000 new customers in the quarter, partly offset by losses at the Irish operation, now combined with the UK unit, leading to a net increase of 40,000 across both. The company said its Project Lightning infrastructure build-out was on track with 250,000 new premises targeted this year.

Dutch unit Ziggo, recently combined with the former UPC Netherlands, continued to lose subscribers, but at a slower rate, with 18,000 RGU losses significantly lower than the average during the first half of the year, according to the company.

The CEE region saw 113,000 RGU additions in the quarter.

Liberty Global also added customers to its LiLAC group, with Chile contributing 10,00 additional customers and the unit as a whole adding 24,000 RGUs in the third quarter.

Revenue for the period was up 2.2% to US$4.6 billion. Operating income was US$545.5 million, down from US$703.7 million for the same period last year.

“Subscriber growth is back on track with 320,000 RGU additions in the third quarter, including 220,000 new broadband subscribers. This acceleration in volume growth was fueled by our operations in Germany and the UK. Continued traction of our cutting-edge Horizon TV platform resulted in a record quarter of almost 250,000 new subscriptions. The execution of our aggressive technology roadmap continues delivering innovative products like our recently launched Replay TV functionality and next-generation WiFi gateway,” said president and CEO Mike Fries.

“In the Netherlands, our renewed focus on service quality and product launches since the Ziggo rebrand resulted in better subscriber performance as compared to the first half. With momentum continuing across the rest of our business, we are targeting up to one million organic RGU additions for 2015, and look forward to a strong Q4. On the mobile front, we improved our product portfolio with the launch of data-rich 4G offerings in Switzerland, the Netherlands and Chile. In total, we added over 450,000 postpaid subscribers in the last twelve months and together with our successful split-contract mobile offering, drove our Q3 rebased mobile revenue by 18% year-over-year.

“From a financial perspective, in Europe we reported 3.5% rebased revenue growth in Q3, our best quarterly performance in two years, led by top-line growth in Germany, Belgium and the U.K. Our YTD rebased OCF growth came in at 3%. As we continue to expect to meet full-year guidance of mid-single digit rebased growth, we anticipate a higher OCF growth rate in Q4 than the YTD growth rate for our 3 European operations. Finally, we generated Free Cash Flow of $1.7 billion during the first nine months of 2015, a 24% improvement year-over-year.”