Publications

Format: Jun 2016
Sector(s) Datesort ascending
Setanta at bay

A last minute rescue proposition has postponed the threat of Setanta entering into administration by at least another week, subject to meeting its revised payment schedule of sums owing to the Premier League

The profound commercial difficulties experienced by Setanta highlight the weakness of EU efforts to ensure competition in the sale of live televised rights to top UK domestic football and underline the inflated rights costs that would face any other complementary premium pay-TV sports supplier

Setanta’s survival hinges on its ability to negotiate further cuts in its rights payments and persuade investors that it can become profitable by making the necessary revisions to its retail/wholesale business model

 

TV, Media 16 June 2009
Digital Britain Final Report: implications for UK telecoms

The Digital Britain report’s proposed fixed line levy to fund rural NGA may well never become law, but if implemented, could end up being absorbed by the service providers, with a disproportionately negative impact on TalkTalk Group

The proposed Universal Service Commitment for broadband at 2 Mbit/s looks of limited attraction to potential bidders, but could increase the addressable market for retail broadband by about one million households

The proposed spectrum solution is a sensible compromise which ensures a roughly even playing field between mobile operators over the longer term. There is however still some way to go to implement it, with mid-2010 the best case timetable for the main auction of new spectrum, with this continued delay benefitting the incumbent mobile operators

  • TalkTalk
Telecoms, Mobile, Fixed Line 15 June 2009
Prisa-Mediapro football deal clears Digital+ sale

Under recession-induced financial stress, rival Spanish media groups Prisa and Mediapro have settled a three year battle over football rights, giving Digital+ secure access to domestic football for three seasons

A separate tentative deal to merge their TV assets still faces considerable hurdles if it is to be finalised by the end of June. Prisa needs to raise cash and may still dispose of Digital+ or bring new investors in the merged entity

Although Digital+ is unrivalled on the premium segment of the pay market, we doubt the economic gloom, plus strong competition from IPTV, cable and terrestrial TV, leaves much room for subscriber expansion

Media, TV, Non-UK Media 14 June 2009
Ofcom statement on LLU pricing: gently does it

Ofcom’s recent statement on LLU pricing has increased the amount which BT Openreach can charge unbundlers for full LLU over the next two years by about 8% overall

We estimate the changes will raise BT group EBITDA by less than 1% over the two years to March 2011

TalkTalk Group’s recent retail price increase is more than enough to offset the impact of Ofcom’s ruling on its annual EBITDA to March 2010, but the ruling could still take 5% off annual EBITDA to March 2011

Sky has yet to start mass migration to MPF and is more exposed to increases in the price of ancillary services, but less exposed to those for MPF rental. Sky’s annual residential telecoms EBITDA to March 2011 could be 10% lower, but this could be reduced if management takes the opportunity to increase the price of retail line rental

  • Sky
  • TalkTalk
Telecoms, Fixed Line 13 June 2009
Carphone Warehouse 2008/09 FY results

Carphone Warehouse’s distribution business had a slightly mixed year, with strong volumes and revenue mitigated by a sharp drop in margins and profit, with margin being sacrificed for market share

Given the very poor recession-hit market for handsets, Carphone Warehouse’s market share gains have been dramatic, so the sacrifice was at least not in vain

Although TalkTalk Group missed much of its guidance to March 2009, we now view new guidance as achievable, with the main risks related to the integration of Tiscali UK

  • TalkTalk
  • Carphone Warehouse
Telecoms, Mobile, Fixed Line, Non-UK Telecoms 6 June 2009
Sky leads race for Virgin Media's VMtv

According to press reports, Sky has lodged a bid of about £160 million for the VMtv content arm of Virgin Media (VMed), estimated to be 50-60% higher than other offers in the latest and final round of the bidding contest

At TalkTalk Group (TTG) net broadband additions for the quarter were relatively strong, given likely market growth, probably due at least in part to reduced subscriber loss at AOL UK

In our view cut-price business broadband, rather than IPTV, offers the best prospect of profitable revenue growth in fixed line

  • Virgin Media
  • Sky
Media 4 June 2009
Mobile revenue growth to March 2009 and outlook

In the following presentation we show our analysis of revenue growth trends for mobile operators in the top five European markets (UK, Germany, France, Italy and Spain)

The historical analysis is based on the published results of the operators, although they include our estimates where their data is inconsistent or not complete. A copy of the underlying data in spreadsheet format is available to our subscription clients on request

Telecoms, Mobile, Non-UK Telecoms 3 June 2009
Recorded Music and Music Publishing

Steep declines in CD sales in major recorded music markets continued in 2009 as we had forecast last year (Recorded Music and Music Publishing [2008-39])

Sales of recorded music continue to be decimated by physical and online piracy, plus the disintermediation of the album purchase by the digital purchase of ‘cherry-picked’ tracks

A further knock-on effect on CD sales is the reduction in retailers’ shelf space devoted to music, including as a result of the bankruptcies of major chains (Circuit City, Woolworths and Zavvi) – what we have called the ‘perfect storm’ for the CD

  • Apple
Media, Music and Radio 2 June 2009
Setanta: sink, float or swim?

Against current annual losses in the order of £100 million, Setanta has the whole of June in which to attract the necessary investment that will allow it to continue. The alternative is closure

As complementary supplier of premium sports channels to Sky, Setanta has been more vulnerable to recessionary pressures, but it is not in the interest of any of its existing competitors/business associates for it to cease operations

There is a chance of survival, but it requires swapping the current retail/wholesale model for a wholesale only model as a start, with the possibility of further reductions in the costs of its sports rights

  • Sky
Media, TV 27 May 2009
OFT recommendations and CRR - little comfort for ITV

The OFT has delivered its verdict on ITV’s request for a review and modification of the CRR remedy that the Competition Commission imposed as a condition of the Carlton/Granada merger in 2003

In delivering its verdict, the OFT has chosen to sit on the fence. After recognising both the merits of the ITV case and the continuing concerns of the advertising community it reiterated earlier recommendations for minor changes in keeping with the times, but otherwise left it to the CC to decide what changes to make

The complexity of the CRR remedy and the polarised views of parties involved, as well as the burden of decision-making transferred to the CC, merely confirm the view that any significant modification to CRR will be a long time in coming, and almost certainly long after the start of the 2010 trading season, as previously suggested by ITV

  • ITV
Media, TV 27 May 2009
Will consumers pay for online news?

Newspaper publishers are about to enter a series of ‘online payment’ trials to help bolster disappointing online advertising performance that alone will be unable to support full scale newsrooms

Publishers are on the back foot, however: they have been giving away their content for free for almost a decade, and their core content does not have the unequivocal unique attributes of a football match, a movie or a pop song

While there are a variety of options for management to explore, in aggregate they will never match the print model, and so news is destined to shrink as a commercial enterprise for newspaper publishers

Media, Press, Internet 25 May 2009
Cable & Wireless full year results to March 2009: strong cost control

The UK and international businesses (now ‘Worldwide’ and ‘CWI’) are both continuing to perform well, despite weak revenue growth, thanks to strong cost control. Worldwide is now generating cash organically for the first time in memory

Performance at the newly-acquired Thus has been slightly below expectations, mostly due to increased customer churn. The sale of the ‘mid-market’ part of the business is a possibility

The market was disappointed by guidance for the new financial year. In our view it is both acceptable and achievable

  • Cable & Wireless
Telecoms, Mobile, Fixed Line, Non-UK Telecoms 20 May 2009
Vodafone 2008/09 full year results: economy and competition start to hurt

 

Vodafone’s European revenue growth dipped sharply in the March 2009 quarter to -3.3% from -1.4% in the previous quarter, due to a combination of recessionary impact and continuing underperformance of the market

EBITDA margins also declined by 2ppts, with falling handset subsidies more than compensated for by a sharp rise in general operating expenses, despite cost cutting efforts

Implied guidance for Vodafone Europe in 2009/10 of an organic 4-5% drop in revenue and 2ppt dip in EBITDA margin is bleak but realistic, with even these figures at risk if either the economy does not start to recover or the company cannot keep general operating expenses flat

 

  • Vodafone
Mobile, Telecoms 19 May 2009
BT FY 2008-09 Q4 results: clearing the decks

BT’s Q4 results contained a bombshell £1.3 billion write-down at Global Services to correct previous under-reporting of costs on two contracts, believed to be with the NHS and Reuters. Underlying EBITDA at Global Services also dropped sharply for the second quarter running

Annual pension contributions are to increase sharply, as expected, albeit to a level sustainable by the business. Performance at other divisions continues to be reasonable, given the economic environment

The company’s plans to cut costs have some credibility, but are expensive and will take time to implement. There is little prospect of meaningful recovery in cash flow until 2010

  • BT
Telecoms, Fixed Line, Non-UK Telecoms 16 May 2009
ITV Q1 2009 trading statement: hard times

ITV plc outperformance in a TV advertising market that is expected to fall by 17% in H1 2009 (ITV Family down 16%) may simply reflect frontloading of budgets, with audience trends suggesting that ITV plc will be slightly down on the market average across the full year

In the continuing absence of voluntary cooperation between ISPs and rights holders, yet another consultation is being launched, but this time, the pressure on ISPs is being increased by the proposal to give Ofcom powers to reduce unlawful file-sharing, including “technical measures” (e.g. traffic shaping) if needed

With another lengthy consultation process ahead, and then a legislative phase, it is too early to judge the commercial implications on the ISPs or whether the creative industries will claw back sales from reduced unlawful file-sharing

  • ITV
Media 14 May 2009
Gloomy trading updates on local newspapers

Gloomy trading updates from both Johnston Press and Trinity Mirror, and news that Johnston has abandoned its sale of Irish titles, have choked the optimism that swelled both publishers’ valuations during the bull weeks of early Q2 2009

Some comfort was taken from the nascent ‘advertising stability’ that has left recruitment and property categories down about 50% year on year. However, the potential for spend levels on recruitment and property to stay depressed, even when the economy recovers as the structural shift to online continues, could be devastating to the economics of publishing

Circulation revenues are also appearing vulnerable, as print consumption decline appears to be accelerating, pushing total publisher revenues into a faster downward spiral

Media, Press 13 May 2009
Carphone Warehouse acquisition of Tiscali UK: The Italian Job

Carphone Warehouse’s acquisition of Tiscali UK makes TalkTalk Group the second largest UK ISP and the largest in terms of residential broadband subscribers, just as market growth begins to stall

The company’s synergy target looks readily achievable, although integration challenges are significant and could make the acquired customer base difficult to stabilise

Nonetheless, TalkTalk Group now seems set to dominate the ‘value’ end of the UK residential telecoms market

  • TalkTalk
  • Carphone Warehouse
Telecoms, Fixed Line 9 May 2009
Channel Four 2008 annual report: bridging the funding gap

Channel 4 broke even in 2008 despite a 5% fall in total TV NAR (net advertising revenues), through a combination of outperforming the market and £25 million in programme budget cuts. Its annual report also underlined its credentials as the alternative PSB voice, based on market research conducted over the year

The crunch time is likely to come in 2009 and 2010. Although financially better placed in many ways than ITV, and more flexible over committed programme spend, the recession threatens Channel 4 with a cumulative annual net deficit of around £150 million in 2010 without further action

Financial pressures facing Channel 4 highlight the need for urgent government action, in the absence of which much depends on the outcome of Virgin Media’s efforts to sell its content assets and the ultimate willingness of BBC Worldwide to engage in a JV with Channel 4. Consolidation would help even if it did not solve all of Channel 4’s pressing financial concerns

  • Channel 4
Media, TV 6 May 2009
Virgin Media Q1 2009 results: awaiting impact of price changes

VMed’s Q1 results were again mixed, with declining group revenue and OCF margin but improving performance at Virgin Mobile and continuing strength in TV

The core cable business is facing a return to negative customer growth due to a combination of seasonality and stalling demand for broadband

But de facto price increases in broadband, TV and mobile should boost financial performance from the autumn; we expect this to be combined with reduced opex to generate significant cash flow growth from 2010

  • Virgin Media
TV, Media, Telecoms, Fixed Line 4 May 2009
Sky FY 2009 Q3 results: recession-resistant

Another strong quarter of pay-TV subscriber growth, marked by record Sky+ HD sales, indicated continued resistance to recessionary pressures, supported by flat costs other than those associated with accelerated HD take-up

Results for the telecoms business again displayed strong volume growth in an increasingly difficult market. But original guidance for broadband subscribers, breakeven and standalone IRR looks challenging

Although the recession may yet take its toll on subscriber growth, the final outcome could work to Sky’s advantage due to the severe revenue losses being experienced by the free-to-air advertising sector. Constraints imposed by regulatory intervention remain a possibility, but unlikely to make a material difference over the next two to three years

  • Sky
TV, Media, Telecoms, Fixed Line 29 April 2009

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