POSITIVE first-quarter results from the Hampshire-based cable company NTL prove the optimism of one of its top people is justified in an exclusive interview with Gazette business.

NTL achieved its first quarterly operating profit in more than 10 years of trading and has restructured to move on from the days when it seemed that every street pavement was being dug up by the company to lay its cable network.

The company, which is listed in New York on Nasdaq, produced an operating profit of £2.2million for the first three months compared with a £54.1million loss before.

The upbeat results for NTL, which would be in the FTSE 100 if it was listed in the UK, mean that the company has achieved a break-even operating income for the first time in its history and is ready to put its troubled times behind it.

Paul Weir, business services director for an area stretching from the South Coast to the West Midlands, spoke to The Gazette ahead of the quarter's results and said: "It's genuinely exciting and a renaissance. We're offering 21st century services to people with a reliable and resilient network".

Mr Weir, who has been with NTL for 10 years, said: "Since the early to mid-1990s we've gone from scratch to create a £9billion network.

"We've been drivers of telecom competition. It's been a challenge and NTL has risen to it."

He wryly added: "Without NTL we'd still be relying on just BT telephone lines and faxes."

Instead broadband is getting even faster and NTL is looking to grow its market in the commercial sector with 21st century voice and data services.

Mr Weir (pictured above) said: "We're leading and growing particularly in business and the public sector."

And now NTL is on a shortlist of 17 companies to supply broadband to the public sector.

With the scare stories of the dot com boom and bust in the past, Mr Weir said NTL is moving forward with a strategy for efficient and profitable growth.

NTL employs around 2,500 people in Hampshire, 1,200 of whom are headquartered in Hook at the business park where the company relocated to from Farnborough in 1999. Staff operate out of three buildings on the business campus.

Working with a base of small businesses through to corporate giants, Mr Weir said: "It's exciting for me to be at the forefront of technology."

He added: "People in Hampshire have seen NTL grow over the last decade and seen the good and the bad news.

"Following the problems of the dot com boom, we're a very healthy company in a new era. There's a feeling of optimism in the company."

He believes the future will continue to see NTL grow successfully from its Hook site and remain a major employer in Hampshire. The skilled workforce in the M3 and M4 corridor means the firm can recruit high-calibre staff.

Mr Weir said: "There is a history of telecoms and IT skills in this area and it makes NTL a strong company."