Moss ad boosts Virgin Mobile

A television commercial featuring model Kate Moss is helping Virgin Mobile in its drive to pick up more contract customers, the telecoms firm said today.

The total number of customers using contract and pay-as-you-go in the UK rose 12% to 4.35 million in the last three months of 2005 while revenues were up 20.3% on the same period in 2004.

Virgin said it was continuing talks with cable company NTL about a possible takeover and expected to make a further announcement “in due course”.

The Kate Moss advert launched on Christmas Eve but generated publicity beforehand after she lost work following allegations of drug-taking.

The quarter saw Virgin Mobile achieve a net gain of 193,000 active customers, which it said was driven by a high level of pre-pay connections at Christmas as well as "continued growth" in contracts.

However the number of customers gained by Virgin Mobile in the period was fewer than in the last three months of 2004 when 276,000 joined the network.

Well over half its revenue growth had been generated from the pre-pay segment, it said, with average revenues per customer rising to £123 (€180).

Income from text messaging and other non-voice services made up 32.6% of revenue from services – unchanged quarter on quarter.

Virgin Mobile’s contract phones were initially available through Carphone Warehouse outlets but have now expanded to The Link, Virgin Megastore and concessions in WHSmith branches – with more expansion planned for later in 2006.

A spokesman said that while the Kate Moss advert had only aired for the last week of 2005 after making its debut on primetime ITV on December 24, it had been available on the internet a week earlier, and been surrounded by a fortnight of strong publicity.

Virgin Mobile, which is a “virtual operator” using the network of T-Mobile, is currently considering a takeover offer worth £961m (€1.4bn) from NTL.

The cable group wants to create a communications giant offering a range of services to about nine million customers under the Virgin brand.

A tie-up would create the UK’s first “quadruple play” provider, offering mobile phones, fixed-line phones, internet broadband and television.

NTL has said the deal hinged on confirmation that German firm T-Mobile will continue to allow its mobile phone network to be used by Virgin Mobile on satisfactory terms.

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