Virgin Mobile - currently in talks with cable firm NTL over a possible £919 million merger - has revealed that a television commercial featuring model Kate Moss is helping in its drive to pick up more contract customers.
The total number of customers using contract and pay-as-you-go rose 12 per cent to 4.35 million in the last three months of 2005 while revenues were up 20.3 per cent on the same period in 2004.
Virgin, headed by entrepreneur Sir Richard Branson, said it was continuing talks with NTL about a possible takeover and expected to make a further announcement "in due course".
The Kate Moss advert launched on Christmas Eve but generated publicity beforehand after she lost work following allegations of drug-taking.
The quarter saw Virgin Mobile achieve a net gain of 193,000 active customers, which it said was driven by a high level of pre-pay connections at Christmas as well as "continued growth" in contracts.
However the number of customers gained by Virgin Mobile in the period was fewer than in the last three months of 2004 when 276,000 joined the network.
Well over half its revenue growth had been generated from the pre-pay segment, it said, with average revenues per customer rising to £123.
Income from text messaging and other non-voice services made up 32.6 per cent of revenue from services - unchanged quarter on quarter.
Virgin Mobile's contract phones were initially available through Carphone Warehouse outlets but have now expanded to The Link, Virgin Megastore and concessions in WHSmith branches - with more expansion planned for later in 2006.
A spokesman said that while the advert had only aired for the last week of 2005 after making its debut on primetime ITV on December 24, it had been available on the internet a week earlier, and been surrounded by a fortnight of strong publicity.
NTL, which is also merging with smaller rival Telewest wants to create a communications giant offering a range of services to about nine million customers under the Virgin brand.
A tie-up would create the UK's first "quadruple play" provider, offering mobile phones, fixed-line phones, internet broadband and television.
NTL has said the deal hinged on confirmation that German firm T-Mobile will continue to allow its mobile phone network to be used by Virgin Mobile on satisfactory terms.
Meanwhile, Thus Group has boosted its position in the telecoms market after buying two smaller firms for a total sum in the region of £70 million.
The company said it was buying corporate telecoms group Your Communications from United Utilities for an initial sum of £58.8 million in shares, considerably less than the £200 million analysts had initially hoped the utility group would sell it for last year.
Thus also said it had agreed to buy corporate internet services provider Legend for around £11.5 million in cash, funded by a placing of 67.4 million shares, or about five per cent of its share capital.
Thus said it planned to sell internet services group Demon Netherlands. Shares closed down 1/2p at 369p.