Publications

Format: Oct 2017
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Sector(s) Datesort ascending
BT - The Pressure Will Continue

As the various separations in the BT family draw closer, we use this report to assess the likely prospects of the core UK fixed line division, Wholesale and Retail.

The key points are:

  • BT
Telecoms 17 August 2001
UK Mobile Operators - 'Active' Customers

The UK mobile operators have made much of their honesty in ceasing to record subscribers that have not made calls within six months. This will help analysts make a clearer judgment of how many people actually use mobiles, and what the correct figure is for ARPU. But pleasure at the apparent increase in openness should be tempered somewhat. Operators are starting to make active efforts to stop subscribers becoming 'inactive'. In the last few weeks all the UK operators appear to have adopted similar policies. These policies state that the operator will take back a subscriber's telephone number unless one call is made or one SMS is sent from the phone during each six-month period.

As important, the mobile operators are keeping a much tighter rein on inventories, effectively shifting stock risk to retailers such as Carphone Warehouse. Inventory levels throughout the supply chain will be lower. Retail price levels will be more robust – improving operator margins. But we expect total sales over the Christmas period to be lower than expected because of the higher prices in the retail chain.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 16 August 2001
Mobile Handset Market Global Trends and Forecast

This report provides our model for global handset sales in 2001 to 2005. We continue to forecast 375 million units shipped in 2001. The forecast for 2002 is 470 million units. Key constraints on the level of shipments in Europe:

At current pricing levels, we see pay-TV penetration struggling to exceed 60% by 2010. And the rapid continued price inflation in the pay-TV offerings of Sky, the cable companies and ITV Digital will make even this target difficult to achieve. As our recent note on household expenditure (Time and Money) indicated, the poorest 40% of the population have very little surplus cash. Increasing prices means that pay-TV is moving even further beyond the reach of this group.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 11 August 2001
NTL - A False Dawn?

We look at the recent improvements in NTL performance but suggest that continued progress towards cash generation in unlikely. In our view, NTL will miss its guidance for cash flow in 2002 and 2003 by substantial amounts, making its financial position increasingly unstable. Our view is that NTL will use up its existing cash resources long before it turns cash positive. The problems are exacerbated by the large amounts of NTL's debt that need to refinanced in 2004 and 2005.

But market comments on NTL's liquidity position have not been as insightful as they might be. This is where the real attention should have been focused.

Telecoms 31 July 2001
ITV Digital

This note has been prompted by a flurry of activity in UK television media: the renaming of ONdigital (‘ITV Digital’) and its absorption into the ITV mother ship; the launch of ITV Sport, a new pay-TV channel aimed at sports enthusiasts; the impending final results of BSkyB (‘Sky’) on 25th July 2001 (dealt with in a separate note issued on 20th July) and the renewed concerns over the funding of the UK cable companies.

ITV Digital itself stresses the importance of thinking about the 'platform' and its associated channel, ITV Sport separately. ITV Digital and its shareholders, Carlton and Granada, are highly optimistic about the future performance of the platform. We look at each of the many reasons for optimism that they have advanced. There is strength in many of their arguments, but we still see their breakeven target as very difficult to achieve.

  • ITV
Media 28 July 2001
Internet Access in the UK

This report updates our thinking on the market segmentation of Internet access in the UK, one year after we buried the European portal model (Portal Strategies, May 2000). It analyses the connectivity needs of large businesses, medium-sized and small enterprises, and residential customers.

Media 17 July 2001
The Gross Margin from Retailing Premium Pay-TV Channels

Media 16 July 2001
BSkyB's Results and the State of Pay-TV in the UK

NTL's share price slide over the last few weeks has focused attention again on the prospects for UK pay-TV.

This report extends the analysis to the two largest European incumbents, France Telecom and Deutsche Telekom. We look at trends in market share, wholesale and retail pricing, and the impact of increased competition. We identify the companies' strategies in the face of these forces and show the impact of stretched balance sheets on corporate actions.

  • Sky
Media 11 July 2001
Marconi and DWDM

Marconi blames reduced capital expenditure budgets for its troubles. We suspect the truth is more complex. Operators and CLECs have put a lot of optical bandwidth into Europe. This looked sensible when expected traffic growth was 100%+ a year. Now, operators see much lower demand growth, so they have little incentive to invest in Marconi's bandwidth-enhancing DWDM technologies. New investment will not come in volume until existing capacity is used. We think this will occur in late 2002, not at the turn of this year as Marconi predicts. Demand will then rise again at a healthy clip. But will Marconi be able to retain its position in Europe or will Ciena or Cisco, with their newer technologies, have captured its major customers?

We examine the impact of a potential decrease in consumers' expenditure by looking at the experience of the early 1990's recession in the UK. We put forward a simple model of how consumers' TMT expenditure might change in the event of recession in 2002.

Telecoms 6 July 2001
UK B2C E-Commerce

This report updates our UK E-Commerce 2000 report from December 2000 and our European B2C E-Commerce Update of April 2001. It draws mainly on data provided by the British Market Research Bureau (BMRB) collected in February 2001.

Media 5 July 2001
Global Handset Sales

We have analysed the latest numbers from the EMC world database.  The countries covered represented 68% of year-end 2000 global subs, so are incomplete but give a fair indication of progress so far this year.  In addition to updating countries to end Q2, EMC has also made retrospective adjustments to US and China numbers (both of which make the numbers more consistent with bottom-up sources we have looked at).  The countries given partially or mostly cover Western Europe, North America and Asia Pacific, and the analysis below extrapolates the missing countries and regions.

Q1: 97m

Q2: 91m

 

Telecoms, Mobile 2 July 2001
DWDM in Europe

This report is based on more than 40 interviews with existing online advertisers, agencies and online properties. It highlights the main barriers to growth and sets a challenging agenda for industry participants.

Telecoms 1 July 2001
BT Rights Issue Pointers

This is the first of a series of notes on the outlook for the core fixed-line businesses of BT and the other European incumbent telcos. In order to prepare investors for the coming rights issue we briefly consider the issues that face BT's core operations. The follow-on note will provide a more in-depth analysis.

Our main points are as follows:

  • BT
Telecoms 21 June 2001
3G Infrastructure

Estimates of the cost of building 3G networks in large European countries have tended to cluster around $5 billion per operator. This, in addition to the embarrassing large licence fees paid to governments, is acting as a drag on stock market performance.

This figure is exactly what we would have predicted based on our modelling of 3G costs contained in our June report. Sweden is nearly twice the size of the UK, and the regulator's coverage requirements are probably the strictest in Europe - in theory the whole of population has to be covered. But costs are reduced because Europolitan will share its network with the Hutchison 3G venture in all areas of the country outside the four biggest cities.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 18 June 2001
Mobile Handsets - Sendo

Despite the bad news it offered the markets last week, Nokia still wields massive power in the handset market. Its market share goal of 40% is well within reach. This makes mobile phones a very unusual business; with the exception of handheld electronic games, we can think of no other major hardware market that is dominated by one manufacturer to the same extent. Moreover, even though mobile phone manufacture is a huge global business, only a handful of firms can actually design and build a new handset. Sendo is a new UK company trying to break into this brutal business. Its business strategy is compellingly different; it focuses entirely on own-brand manufacturing for operators. It already has impressive technical achievements. Will it succeed? Who knows. But we think its business strategy is worth exploring.

UK regional newspapers are better positioned than most media to withstand a downturn given the existence of multiple streams of revenue (advertising, circulation) and the unique nature of local franchises.

 

However, the underlying trends are poor and likely to get worse, particularly in recruitment advertising, with greater consolidation inevitable over the medium term.

Telecoms, Mobile 14 June 2001
The US/Europe Wireless Spectrum Paradox

This note examines the US 'spectrum shortage' campaign. We think that US 3G services will be forced to use existing spectrum, rather than move to greenfield frequencies. This is highly relevant to Europe because the lack of dedicated 3G spectrum in the US strongly favours CDMA2000 over Europe's preferred WCDMA. We see signs that several US operators will have CDMA2000 based 3G systems in place, with fully-functioning handsets, long before Europe. The onward march of GSM and its successors into the US may not be the foregone conclusion that some expect. Deutsche Telecom's bridgehead, VoiceStream, is not, for example, as well positioned as Sprint PCS. Furthermore, Vodafone's attempt to get Verizon Wireless to use WCDMA looks ill-conceived to us.

In our forthcoming report ‘BT Restructured Into Pieces’ we detail our views on BT's prospects as a separated entity, and consider the mooted spinning out of BT Wholesale in light of Oftel's current regulatory tone. In the report we argue that Oftel is likely to be favour the separation of Wholesale from Retail since Oftel has been disappointed with the rate at which effective competition has developed in the telecoms market, particularly in the residential market.  In no small part, one of the barriers to the development of effective competition has been the vertical integration of BT. There is no incentive for BT Wholesale to hasten the process of cutting access costs to the network, or to unbundle the local loop. Each of these activities would harm BT's retailing activities, and BT Retail generates extremely high returns on capital (184%pa).

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 5 June 2001
3G Capacity - Europe, Japan

In our recent report on 3G infrastructure, we analysed published actual contract values that demonstrated that claims that large European 3G networks would cost 5bn Euros or more each were very unlikely to be correct, at least in the next three years. We hypothesised that European operators would install a basic network which covered most of the national population, but that low needs for data transmission would mean that this network would suffice for the conceivable future. We showed that limited networks, costing no more than a few hundred million Euros, would be able to carry the fixed line voice traffic of most of the population.

In other words, in an effort to stop subscriber numbers falling, the networks have created an incentive for a user to send just one 10p SMS or make one 5p call during each six-month period. If this is the price of retaining a number, it can reasonably be expected that most inactive subscribers will fall into line; one never knows when that second phone given to you by Aunty Mabel last Christmas might come in useful. The single action of sending one SMS would enable the operator to move a subscriber back onto the 'active' list.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 1 June 2001
NTL Q1 2001 Results

NTL's quarterly results demonstrate an abrupt change of strategy. Customer acquisition has all but ceased. Increasing telecom prices is the new battle plan. This is sensible, but we question whether the potential revenue gains can do much for debt or equity holders. If UK customer numbers have peaked, even optimism about ARPU will not produce free cash flow. Our scepticism remains. NTL continues to raise money in huge volumes. But note that this quarter's capex (even after the end of the so-called network build-out) is still almost four times EBITDA because investment in providing new services has to continue (e.g. digital set-top boxes).

European handset sales have collapsed due to maturity of markets, lengthening replacement cycles and significant changes in operator marketing strategies.

Approximately 10-15% of European wireless users have multiple active SIMs; thus subscriber growth has actually been slower than reported and replacement cycles have been faster than perceived; this situation has now reversed in our opinion. The use of multiple active SIMs will diminish over time in our opinion, providing a further brake on sales.

Telecoms 19 May 2001
3G Infrastructure Sharing

The UK telecoms regulator, Oftel, has just (1st May) produced a briefing note that seems to encourage the idea of infrastructure sharing of third generation mobile networks. It defines 'infrastructure sharing' as including both physical sharing of sites, and also the sharing of capacity. The example Oftel gives is interesting. It says that two operators could divide up the country, one, say, building a network in Manchester, the other in Leeds. They could then allow free 'roaming' between the cities.

Our primary purpose is to provide revenue forecasts for the next three years. Our central forecast sees Retail revenues falling at percentage rates in the low single digits. Wholesale revenues are driven by different forces and will rise rapidly next year, and at a slower rate thereafter. The rise in Wholesale revenues will not be enough to stop a fall in overall income.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 18 May 2001
Mobile Market Trends and Forecasts for 2001/2

Our view is that mobile operator marketing strategy was the key determinant of the rate of apparent growth in mobile penetration across Europe in 2000. We use this report to show that operator 'push' was responsible for the increase in apparent subscribers. We examine the evidence on actual rates of ownership and usage in the three of the largest markets and show that underlying mobile penetration is probably around 60% of adults in these markets. Will the reduction in estimated levels of penetration, which the operators also acknowledge, mean continuing high growth rates in future? We think it unlikely. First of all, of course, operator 'push' is reducing. Second, ownership in key demographics, such as 15-24 year olds is already close to saturation. Third, those that do not own a mobile, particularly in the older age groups, appear relatively uninterested in the product.

Our pessimism derives from our view, firstly, that subscriber growth in NTL's UK cable franchises has all but ceased and, secondly, that further price rises will inevitably cause loss of subscribers as NTL's telephony and television offerings have already become uncompetitive. Broadband is important but will not generate significant amounts of extra revenue.

 

 

Telecoms, Mobile 18 May 2001

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