By John Harrington
Date: Thursday 01 Nov 2012
Telecommunications giant BT has bumped up its interim dividend after a solid second quarter which saw profits before tax grow.
Adjusted revenue in the three months to the end of September was down 9% at £4,474m from £4,894m a year earlier, while underlying earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) were virtually unchanged year-on-year at £1,497m.
Adjusted profit before tax climbed 7% to £608m from £570m in the second quarter of the previous fiscal year, as costs fell and margins rose, compensating the hit to revenues from new regulation. Adjusted earnings per share also rose 7%, to 6.0p from 5.6p a year earlier.
Net debt at the end of September was 9% larger at £9,037m compared to £8,317m at the end of September 2011. Despite this, the group felt confident enough to whack up the interim dividend by 15% to 3p from 2.6p at the halfway stage last year.
BT Retail was the star performer, with second quarter EBITDA of £474m, up 7% from £445m the year before. This was despite revenue easing 3% to £1,791m from £1,853m the year before.
BT Global Services, BT's offering to corporate customers, saw EBITDA slide 18% to £130m (2011 second quarter: £159m) on revenue that fell 13% to £1,757m (2011 Q2: £2,014m).
BT Wholesale's EBITDA tumbled 8% to £280m from £305m the year before on revenue that retreated 12% to £861m (2011 Q2: £982m).
The broadband part of BT's business, Openreach, saw EBITDA harden 3% to £582m from £567m the year before, despite revenue slipping 1% to £1,269m from £1,280m in the second quarter of 2011.
"We have delivered another solid quarter of growth in profit before tax despite the economic conditions and regulatory impacts. We continue to make significant investments in the future of our business and we are again accelerating our fibre roll-out. We now expect fibre to be available to two-thirds of UK premises during spring 2014, more than 18 months ahead of our original schedule, and we are recruiting more than 1,000 engineers in 2012 to help deliver this," declared Ian Livingston, Chief Executive of BT.
This is part of what analysts at Nomura are saying in a just issued research note on the telecommunications provider´s results out this morning: "The market’s concerns that Global Services weakness, unhelpful regulation and general economic malaise would drip through to BT’s profitability performance and affect its guidance targets have not materialised. Instead, BT posted margin expansion of 300 basis points -a basis point is one hundredth of a percentage point- in the second quarter, beating our EBITDA forecast by 1.3%, and maintained earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) and cash flow guidance. As fiscal year 2013 is now absorbing a £60m hit from ladder pricing regulation, stable guidance is effectively a 1% upgrade."
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