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Time Warner Cable loses phone subscribers in 1Q

NEW YORK (AP) -- Time Warner Cable Inc., the country's second-largest cable company, on Thursday said it lost phone subscribers for the first time, after years of poaching them from phone companies.

Time Warner Cable executives attributed the net loss of 22,000 phone subscribers to households opting to go wireless-only, and said it had changed its plans to make it less likely that households would sign up for phone service if they didn't need it. They also hinted that the company might cut prices to keep subscribers.

New York-based company also reported weak trends in TV subscriptions, with a loss of net 118,000 cable TV customers in the quarter, to end with 12.1 million. Cable TV subscriptions have been declining across the industry for years, as viewers shift to satellite and phone-company TV services.

Jason Bazinet at Citigroup said higher-than-expected decline appeared to be due to customers leaving after signing up in late 2011 to aggressively priced packages. Cable companies usually provide heavily discounted prices for the first year of service.

Time Warner Cable shares fell 70 cents to $92.03 in afternoon trading. The shares hit $102 in January, the highest level since the split from parent company Time Warner Inc. was completed in 2009, then fell as the company warned that rising programming costs, particularly for sports, would crimp profits this year.

For the January to March period, net income was $401 million, or $1.34 per share. That was up 5 percent from $382 million, or $1.20 per share, a year earlier. The per-share results got an 8-cent boost from a 6 percent drop in the number of outstanding shares, the result of company repurchases.

Excluding merger and restructuring costs and other items, Time Warner Cable earned $1.41 per share. That was up 8.5 percent from a year ago and beat the average estimate of analysts surveyed by FactSet by 4 cents.

Revenue rose 7 percent to $5.48 billion. That was slightly below expectations of $5.49 billion.

Excluding the acquisitions of Insight, a small cable company, in February last year, revenue would have risen about 3.1 percent, mainly due to broadband services.