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Virgin Media Reports Preliminary Q4 2019 Results


Operating Free Cash Flow Increased 26% in 2019

Q4 Cable ARPU Grew 1.6% Driving 1.3% Rebased Revenue Growth

Added 154,000 Lightning Premises in Q4 and 505,000 in 2019; Cumulative New Build now at 2.1 Million

Virgin Media Inc. (“Virgin Media”) is the leading cable operator in the U.K. and Ireland, delivering 14.6 million broadband, video and fixed-line telephony services to 6.0 million cable customers and mobile services to 3.3 million subscribers at December 31, 2019.

Operating highlights:

  • In 2019, Virgin Media increased rebased operating free cash flow (OFCF) by 26.4% as we continued to balance price and volume and improved capital intensity by 500 bps YoY to 23.9%

- In Q4, rebased OFCF increased 11.8% as capital intensity declined to 26.2% while increasing the volume of Lightning premises built Yoy

  • Our U.K. price rise, which was fully effective by October 1, underpinned ARPU growth in the quarter

- Q4 rebased cable ARPU was up 1.6% to £52.44; this reflected a 2.3% increase in rental ARPU, with the benefit from the U.K. price rise partially offset by ongoing phone usage declines

  • We have enhanced the value of our customer base through disciplined acquisitions and retentions and a sustained focus on higher-value TV bundles, which contributed to lower capital expenditures

- Our customer base increased by 7,000 in 2019, despite a 9,000 customer loss in Q4 when growth from new build areas was offset by attrition in our non-Lightning footprint as competitor discounting increased

  • Our FMC bundles, which launched mid-year, supported record postpaid net adds of 266,000 in 2019, with 76,000 adds in Q4, and drove our fixed-mobile converged penetration to 21.2%

-Implementation of our mid-term growth plan has continued at pace during Q4 and into 2020
-In November, we signed a 5-year MVNO deal with Vodafone U.K., which will allow us to launch 5G services and deliver cost efficiencies
-Our Gigabit broadband rollout started in Q4 and 1 Gbps speeds are now available in three locations. Network-wide gigabit broadband coverage is on target for the end of 2021

  • Announced a complimentary speed boost to 100 Mbps for over a million customers in January; this is one of a number of customer loyalty measures which will be rolled out through 2020
  • In B2B, we grew our SOHO RGU base by 7.9% YoY in Q4 and delivered wholesale contract wins for the provision of dark fibre and backhaul services
  • Virgin Media Television remains the largest commercial broadcaster in the Republic of Ireland with a 16% share in viewership across our three free-to-air channels
  • Announced the appointment of Severina Pascu as Chief Financial Officer and Deputy Chief Executive Officer. Along with her finance duties, Severina has responsibility for running our consumer operations comprising customer care, field operations, delivery, supply chain and logistics

Financial highlights:

  • Revenue of £1,331.7 million in Q4 was up 1.3% YoY on a rebased basis
  • Rebased residential cable revenue growth of 1.4% in Q4 was due to a YoY increase in cable ARPU partially offset a decline in cable RGUs and a decrease in non-subscription revenue
  • Rebased Q4 residential mobile revenue increased 3.4% due to the take-up of higher value postpaid data bundles and a revenue benefit arising from the sale of future commission payments on customer handset insurance arrangements
  • Rebased B2B revenue declined 0.9% in Q4 driven by a 2.2% decrease in non-subscription revenue, partially offset by a 10.2% increase in subscription revenue due to growth in SOHO RGUs

- The decline in B2B non-subscription revenue reflects the net effect of a reduction in revenue from data services, equipment sales and installations and an increase in revenue from dark fibre wholesale contract wins in the quarter

  • Operating income decreased YoY to £35.2 million in Q4 due to the net effect of (i) a reduction in Segment OCF2, as described below, (ii) lower share-based compensation expense, (iii) increased related-party fees and allocations, net, (iv) lower depreciation and amortisation and (v) higher impairment, restructuring and other operating items, net
  • Rebased Segment OCF declined 1.4% in Q4, reflecting the aforementioned revenue performance which was more than offset by a net increase in our cost base due to (i) a £9.8 million net increase in network taxes, (ii) a reduction in B2B cost of sales, (iii) higher mobile data costs, (iv) higher marketing spend and (v) an increase in programming costs
  • Property and equipment (“P&E”) additions decreased by 9.2% YoY to £348.5 million in Q4 primarily due to lower spend on customer premises equipment and increased efficiency of our Lightning build
  • Rebased operating free cash flow increased 11.8% in Q4 driven by a reduction in capital intensity to 26.2%, compared to 29.1% in Q4 2018
  • At December 31, 2019, our fully-swapped third-party debt borrowing cost was 4.7% and the average tenor of our third-party debt (excluding vendor financing) was 7.3 years

-In October, we issued (i) $3.3 billion Term Loan N due 2028, (ii) €750 million Term Loan O due 2029 and (iii) £400 million 4.25% Senior Secured Notes due 2030. The proceeds were used to redeem (i) $3.4 billion Term Loan K, (ii) $1 billion 5.25% Senior Secured Notes due 2026 and (iii) £300 million 5.125% Senior Secured Notes due 2025
-In December, our existing revolving credit facilities were replaced by a new revolving facility with a maximum borrowing capacity equivalent to £1.0 billion and an extended maturity date of January 31, 2026   

  • At December 31, 2019, and subject to the completion of our corresponding compliance reporting requirements, the ratios of Net Senior Secured and Total Net Debt to Annualised EBITDA (last two quarters annualised) were 3.76x and 4.30x, respectively, each as calculated in accordance with our most restrictive covenants

-Vendor financing obligations are not included in the calculation of our leverage covenants. If we were to include these obligations in our leverage ratio calculation, the ratio of Total Net Debt to Annualised EBITDA would have been 5.10x at December 31, 2019

  • At December 31, 2019, we had maximum undrawn commitments of £1.0 billion equivalent. When our compliance reporting requirements have been completed and assuming no change from December 31, 2019 borrowing levels, we anticipate the borrowing capacity will be limited to £922 million equivalent

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