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Virgin Media Net Profit Up 30%; Hiring 620 New Staff

By Lilly Vitorovich Of DOW JONES NEWSWIRES LONDON -(Dow Jones)- Virgin Media Inc. (VMED) Wednesday reported a 30% jump in fourth-quarter net profit, helped in part by demand for its combined television and broadband platform powered by TiVo, and said it will create 620 new customer service jobs. The pay-television, phone and Internet company booked a net profit of GBP48.2 million in the three months ended Dec. 31, from GBP37.1 million a year earlier as revenue rose around 2% to GBP1.02 billion, inline with market expectations. Restructuring and other charges were sharply down to GBP0.7 million in the fourth quarter, from GBP41.6 million a year earlier. Virgin Media, which competes against British Sky Broadcasting Group PLC (BSY.LN) and BT Group PLC's (BT.A.LN) BT Vision, said its TiVo customer base more than doubled in the fourth quarter, with 273,000 net additions, taking its TiVo customers to 435,000 at the end of 2011. BSkyB counts News Corp. (NWS) as its biggest shareholder with a 39.1% stake. News Corp. also owns Dow Jones & Co., publisher of this newswire and The Wall Street Journal. The new staff will join the company over the next few weeks, with the majority based in Manchester and Swansea, England. Around 500 will be customer service positions, and the remaining 120 will be people the company can train up as engineers as part of its apprenticeship scheme. Operating cash flow--one of the key numbers tracked by U.K. analysts--rose around 5% to GBP423.7 million in the fourth quarter from GBP403.6 million a year earlier, ahead of market expectations of GBP412 million. Last month, Virgin Media said it would spend GBP110 million to double broadband speeds for more than 4 million customers amid growing demand. Analysts also said it was a defensive move by the company to distinguish itself from rivals. Virgin Media shares closed at 1530 pence in London Tuesday, valuing the company at GBP4.60 billion. -By Lilly Vitorovich, Dow Jones Newswires; 44-0-207 842 9290; lilly.vitorovich@dowjones.com

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