By Jason Theodorou

UK telecoms company Virgin Media has increased customer numbers for the first time since it merged with NTL-Telewest, adding 9,100 new customers. The company announced on Wednesday that it will buy back up to £375 million in stock over the next 12 months as part of a capital return programme.

Virgin Media lost 27,800 customers in the previous year, but has now seen a rise in demand for its cable service and plans to expand its fibre optic network to a further 72,000 households over three months.

The company has enjoyed improved customer loyalty compared to three years ago, when competition with BSkyB for access to basic Sky channels undermined the group's profits. The percentage of customers leaving the company stayed at 1.3%, and the percentage of those taking bundled services including TV and broadband showed a 3% rise.

Neil Berkett, Chief Executive Officer of Virgin Media, said: 'A growing base of customers, combined with increased ARPU and improvements in Business and Mobile revenues, drove strong revenue growth and a double digit year-on-year percentage increase in OCF for the third successive quarter'.

'This performance was driven by our ability to offer households and businesses an increasingly differentiated range of digital services. Going forward, we'll continue to differentiate our propositions by proactively exploiting the advantages of our network and our mobile capability'.

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