Cable group Virgin Media yesterday firmly put its high-profile spat with rival BSkyB behind it as the firm reported a second straight quarter of customer growth.
The company added 24,400 net cable customers in the final three months of last year, up again on the 13,000 additions seen in the third quarter, the first positive growth for over a year.
However, Virgin Media, whose biggest shareholder is Sir Richard Branson, almost doubled pretax losses to £163.2 million from £88.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2006 as it suffered pricing pressure from competitors.
The group - formed in 2006 from the merger of NTL, Telewest and Virgin's mobile phone operations - lost 40,000 customers last year after a row with BSkyB led to the withdrawal of Sky's basic channels, including hit shows such as 24.
But it has begun to see a turnaround with revenues increasing and an improvement in "churn rate" - customers quitting - which fell to 1.4 per cent from 1.7 in the third quarter.
Total revenues increased from £1.01 billion in the third quarter to £1.05 billion in the final three months, although it was down 2.9 per cent year-on-year.
The widening losses came after Virgin was hit by a fall in operating income, which swung £17.8 million into the red in the fourth quarter.
But an aggressive customer retention strategy and move to boost revenues by offering extra services rather than cutting prices is beginning to address the shortfall.
It saw underlying earnings beat analyst expectations, up 2.6 per cent year-on-year to £321 million.
Neil Berkett, acting chief executive of Virgin Media, said results were "encouraging".
"Our fourth quarter results represent our best operational performance since the cable merger in early 2006," he said.
Mr Berkett, who took over after Steve Burch quit in August, said he was "particularly pleased" with the increase in average revenue per user (ARPU) to £42.24. The rise marked the first ARPU improvement since the third quarter of 2006.
However, the group indicated the ARPU increase may not be maintained, with 20p of the uplift thought to have come from pay-per-view sporting events and high telephony usage, which it said "are not expected to recur in the first quarter of 2008".
The row over Sky's channels followed months after Sky scuppered Virgin Media's plans to merge with ITV by taking a 17.9 per cent stake in the commercial broadcaster.
Sky has since been ordered to sell-down the stake to below 7.5 per cent.