Telephony Gains Drive Strong Charter 1Q

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Charter Communications reported its sixth consecutive quarter of double-digit revenue and cash flow growth, fueled mainly by gains in its telephony product.

Revenue for the first quarter at the St. Louis-based cable operator was up 10.5% to $1.6 billion and cash flow increased 10% to $545 million. Driving that increase was a gain of 302,000 revenue generating units in the period (its best RGU quarter since 2003), led by 125,700 additional telephony customers.

Charter also added 85,700 high-speed Internet customers, 102,800 digital video customers and lost 11,900 basic video subscribers. The basic customer losses were below most analysts’ estimates (some expected a loss of at least 13,000 subscribers) and Charter said the bulk of the decline was from its lowest tier of video service.

Charter CEO Neil Smit said the company will begin rolling out its new 16-megabit-per-second, high-speed data service in all of its key markets this year.

On the wireless front, Smit said that Charter is evaluating all of its options and is working “in some different partnership relationships,” but declined to elaborate on any specific discussions.

Smit added that Charter is also looking into the recently announced joint venture between Sprint Nextel, Clearbridge, Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Bright House Networks, Intel and Google, but so far has “not been approached” by the partners to join.

Charter shares were down about 5 cents each, or 4%, to $1.15 per share in early afternoon trading Monday.

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