Monday 26 August 2019

BT warns ‘challenging’ market will hit profits

Shay Walsh is head of BT in Ireland
Shay Walsh is head of BT in Ireland
Ellie Donnelly

Ellie Donnelly

TELECOMS giant BT has posted a drop in annual earnings and warned that sales and profits are set to fall over the year ahead amid a “very challenging and competitive UK market”.

The group reported a 2pc fall in underlying earnings to £7.4bn (€8.6bn) for the year to March 31.

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It cautioned that underlying earnings are expected to fall to between £7.2bn and £7.3bn over 2019/20, with a drop of around 2pc in adjusted revenues. The UK and Ireland business-to-business market “remains challenging”, the group said.

In Ireland revenue increased 1pc to £338.5m, while profit was up 5pc year-on-year.

A number of key contracts were signed by BT Ireland during the year, including a five-year deal with SSE Airtricity Ireland for networking, voice and internet services.

BT Ireland managing director Shay Walsh said the company continues to invest for growth, “and recent investments in our network capability and customer platforms have contributed to a strong sales performance and positioned us well for the financial year ahead”.

Last month it was reported that BT is planning to exit the Irish market though a £400m (€462m) sale of its BT Ireland unit, which provides services to corporate clients. The British multinational is understood to be inviting bids for BT Ireland as part of a wider exit from its Global Services international arm.

However, Mr Walsh at the time cast doubt on the story via social media. He told people not to “believe everything you read in the paper, especially when there is no source quoted”.

A spokeswoman for BT Ireland yesterday said it would not be commenting on the rumours.

On a statutory basis, pre-tax profits at the group lifted 2pc to £2.7bn in the year to March 31 on revenues 1pc lower at £23.4bn.

BT’s recently appointed CEO, Philip Jansen, said the shareholder dividend payout would remain unchanged for 2018/19 and also for 2019/20 “given our outlook for earnings and cash flow”.

But this will come as a relief to its investors after speculation that the group was considering cutting the payout.

Mr Jansen, who took on the top job in February, said: “While we are really well-positioned in a very challenging and competitive UK market, we have a lot of work to do to ensure we remain successful and deliver long-term, sustainable value to our shareholders.

“We need to invest to improve our customer propositions and competitiveness.

BT swung the axe on 13,000 jobs last year under its revamp plans.


Additional reporting PA

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