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3UK still haemorrhaging money

Though loss slowing thanks to interest-free loans

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Last year's losses at the 3G operator were down to £840.7m, according to the Financial Times, but most of that is because its owner, Hutchison Whampoa, is waiving interest payments on loans.

In 2005 the company lost £600m more - £1.4bn, so things are improving, but in that year the firm also paid £320.2m in interest payments, payments which have reduced to £95.1m in 2006 despite the loans not being repaid.

In total the company owes £6.5bn, the vast majority of which is held by its parent Hutchison Whampoa, which seems remarkably sanguine about the debt.

It's not all bad: the company has improved earnings by 30 per cent up to £1.4 billion, partly by shifting its customers from pre-pay onto contracts, which should also reduce churn slightly. It's also feeling confident enough to spend £15m on a new launch to remind punters it's a "mobile media company", rather than a boring old network operator.

How long 3 will be able to continue losing money is anyone's guess: five years ago the company didn't seem to have a future, but by embracing the latest technology and refusing to get involved in quad-play it's taking a considerable gamble in a traditionally risk-adverse industry, though how long 3 will be able to maintain the ante remains to be seen. ®

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