Losses at i-Cable Communications in the six months to June 30 narrowed to HK$40 million from HK$126 million a year earlier. The pay-television operator attributed the smaller loss to subscriber growth and a new accounting method. In the half, subscribers increased 67 per cent from December 31 to 480,000, with average revenue per subscriber rising to HK$254. Chief executive Stephen Ng Tin-hoi said pay-television contributed a first-time profit of HK$10 million in the period, despite the loss of sports channel ESPN. The company renewed contracts in the period with movie channels Cinemax, HBO, AXN and Network of the World, he said. Turnover in the half rose 21 per cent from a year earlier to HK$775 million. Pay-television services accounted for 97 per cent of turnover. The company had a record net cash flow of HK$176 million in the period. Accounting changes allowed i-Cable to forgive a HK$75 million charge in pre-operating expenses. 'We do not expect any loss in the second half,' Mr Ng said. Nonetheless, 'we are not sure we can break even this year', he said. The company's broadband subscriber base reached 20,000 last month, and its dial-up subscribers numbered 163,000, or about 10 per cent of the market. Mr Ng said the HK$1.46 billion in cash raised from an initial public offering in November would cover capital expenditure on the company's cable-television, broadband services, and voice-over Internet protocol, which was scheduled for trials in the fourth quarter. The company is interested in a third-generation mobile licence via a partnership with sister company New T&T. Whether another partner is needed depends on regulations set out by the Office of the Telecommunications Authority (Ofta). Mr Ng said the spectrum auctioning would be acceptable should Ofta choose this option. Meanwhile, i-Cable is waiting for further relaxation in the mainland cable market after the country enters the World Trade Organisation. 'We fixed our goal in Hong Kong in our first five-year plans,' Mr Ng said. 'China is our goal in our next five-year plan.' The company's share price dropped 1.5 per cent to HK$3.375 yesterday after the interim announcement.