Stalled Int'l Financing Prompts Review


Anaheim, Calif. -- Like domestic operators, international cable operators and vendors are revising capital-expenditure plans and strategies for the short term.

For instance, international MSO UnitedGlobalCom Inc. has dropped its expected capex from $2 billion overall two years ago to less than $400 million in 2003, chief financial officer Rick Westerman said.

UGC is focusing on its most profitable product, high-speed data, while slowing down on cable-telephony deployment. "We'll still sell it [cable telephony], but without discounts," he said. The company is still one year away from a full digital launch.

Speakers at an international finance panel here agreed that set-top-box deployments are slowing down, and 80 percent of boxes in use are lower-end technology.

Interactivity remains attractive internationally, but international operators will watch U.S. video-on-demand deployments from afar to see if domestic operators can make a business of it.

One market where funds still flow is China, where investors are attracted by the breadth of government-subsidized infrastructure and huge population but seem to overlook small revenues per households, according to Michelle Sie Whitten, CEO of Starz International.