Liberty Global says 3Q launch for Horizon, posts strongest quarterly subs growth

Reporting what it described as its best-ever quarterly subscriber growth, Liberty Global now says it will begin rolling out its long-awaited Horizon next-generation TV product in the Netherlands in the third quarter, to be followed by Switzerland.

Liberty Global added 445,000 revenue-generating units through organic growth in the three months to March, contributing to what the company said was its strongest quarter to date for subscriber growth. Liberty added 279,000 digital cable subscribers, taking digital penetration to 47% of its base or 8.4 million customers, of which 52% took an HD and/or DVR service. The company lost 86,000 TV subs overall, about the same as for the comparable period last year, contributing to a quarter-on-quarter fall in its video base of 0.3%, but ended with a video base about 15% larger than for the same period last year thanks to the incorporation of Kabel BW.

The results included Liberty Global’s new German business, Kabel BW, for the first time. The company also sold its Australian pay TV business, Austar, during the quarter.

The company added 254,000 broadband internet and 277,000 telephony customers in the quarter, taking broadband penetration to 27% and telephony penetration to 21%.

As of the end of March, the company had 33.4 million RGUs, including 18.4 million TV, 8.5 million broadband and 6.5 million telephony subscribers. Triple-play penetraton stood at 23.2%. ARPU from UPC customers stood at €23.30, up 2%, while overall Liberty Global ARPU stood at US$37.26 (€29), down 2.4%.

President and CEO Mike Fries said: “We had the best quarter in the company’s history for broadband and telephony RGU additions, which drove a record result for LGI’s overall subscriber growth in the quarter as we continue leveraging our superior triple-play bundles. This robust volume growth fueled further acceleration of our revenue, representing our best revenue result in six quarters. Our rebased OCF growth in the quarter reflected, in part, higher year-over-year subscriber acquisition and marketing costs, although our adjusted quarterly FCF growth was consistent with our mid-teens guidance target for 2012. We feel optimistic about our outlook and are reconfirming all of our full-year guidance targets.”

Consolidated revenue for the quarter grew by 12% to US$2.54 billion, driven in part by the addition of Kabel BW and Polish cable operator Aster, offset by the negative impact of foreign currency movements. Operating cash flow for the quarter was US$1.2 billion, up 13%.