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Despite the difficult economy, Virgin Mobile, the joint venture between Richard Branson‘s Virgin Group and Sprint Nextel Corp, announced a profit in Q3 2008 according to Reuters—due in large part to its acquisition of Helio.

Virgin Mobile shares increased 25 percent on the news. The company said the results proved the success of the Helio deal—to some surprise, given Helio’s dwindling fortunes as a mobile media-focused carrier.

“These results clearly demonstrate that we’ve done quite a good job in making the Helio customers immediately profitable,” Chief Executive Dan Schulman told Reuters Monday. Now the hard part: continuing to grow Helio’s stagnant customer base, which numbered about 140,000 at last check.