A strong UK labour market, with record low unemployment but historically high vacancies, has supported growth in the recruitment industry, though trends may be peaking as we reach unknown territory. These trends play out in the recruitment market before they become apparent in the labour market

Despite the fragmentation of the online recruitment listings marketplace, Indeed is well-placed to dominate this space due to its increased scale and aggressive investment strategy

Both Google and Facebook have announced their intention to move into the recruitment listings sphere, which may have consequences not only for classified expenditure but further up the value chain with the agency model. However, both giants have attempted to move into online classifieds before, with little demonstrable success

European mobile service revenue growth declined this quarter to 0.3%, likely due in large part to the increased negative impact from the European roaming surcharge cuts, which we estimate at around 0.5-1.0ppts for Europe as a whole

The continued growth was supported by continued ‘more-for-more’ price increases coupled with strong data volume growth. Partially countering this, there has been a step up in competition at the low end in some markets, often driven by the smaller operators

Looking forward, the negative EU roaming impact is likely to decline from next quarter given the end of the summer holiday season, and on balance we would expect positive price increase trends to overcome negative low end competitive trends, at least in the short term. This might change in 2018, as Iliad launches in Italy, and recently consolidated operators become more of a threat

Mobile service revenue growth dipped this quarter but this was likely entirely due to the predictable (and predicted) impact of the abolition of EU roaming surcharges.  On an underlying basis, growth improved

BT/EE extended its lead in both service revenue and contract subscriber growth terms. EE’s substantial investments in network quality and customer service have driven returns to scale, and its multi-brand approach is working well

Contrasting with the returns to scale seen at EE, TalkTalk’s MVNO has suffered the reverse of this, unable to break-even despite peaking at just shy of 1 million customers, and deciding to retreat to an agency model.  Sky Mobile is performing respectably well in context, but may be headed for scale issues itself

BT Group revenue growth dipped to -1.5% from an instance of rare modest positive growth in the previous quarter, albeit mostly due to a predicted price timing effect in Consumer and revenue growth predictably going from bad to worse in Global Services

The bright spots were continued strong 4% revenue growth at EE, with an acceleration in mobile-related revenue also helping other divisions, and strong growth of 5% in external revenues at Openreach driven by accelerating fibre adoption by competitor customers

A number of very important regulatory/policy/legal issues remain unresolved, including 5G spectrum auction rules, leased line pricing, FTTC pricing and FTTP roll-out rules, but without a number of these going BT’s way the outlook remains tough for at least the next 18 months

European mobile service revenue growth witnessed a rare growth spike this quarter, rising to 0.5%, likely due in large part to the reduced impact this quarter from the European roaming cut regulation, but also helped by a slight softening of MTR cuts and continued ‘more-for-more’ price increases

This roaming regulation holiday will end next quarter and the full impact of ‘free roaming’ will be felt, thus the spike in mobile service revenue growth is likely to more-than-reverse

What is likely to prove lasting is the zero-rated data offers introduced in several markets in Q2, which we expect to see more of given their reported success at improving ARPUs

Mobile service revenue growth continued to improve on a reported basis, but most of this improvement came from a significant dip in the MTR cut drag. EE remained the leader in terms of service revenue growth, with both the strongest ARPU growth and robust contract net adds

The quarter also benefited from the current round of in-contract price increases, which were more widespread and at a higher level than last year, and from a brief holiday in the impact of roaming cut regulation, the impact of which will strongly reverse in Q3 as ‘free roaming’ impacts the whole quarter at the same time as mobile users take their actual holidays

Recent spectrum announcements have far from clarified the auction outlook, with Ofcom deciding on a more restrictive spectrum cap than its initial views but both H3G and EE appealing its decision. It will likely be some time before all 5G spectrum auction rules are resolved, let alone actually holding the auctions or building the networks

BT Group revenue returned to growth, at least temporarily, helped by overlapping price rises in consumer, one-off regulated price cuts on leased lines annualising out, and mobile handset sales improving

Regulatory news was unusually positive, with Openreach taking the initiative on FTTP, and BT winning an appeal against damaging leased line regulation, which may end up being significantly eased

BT continues to do well in consumer and struggle in business markets, with the ongoing deceleration in the consumer broadband market the main cloud on the horizon

 

European mobile service revenue growth remained stuck at zero in Q1, with a heightened impact from the mobile termination rate cuts in Germany and price promotional activity in southern Europe mitigating improving markets in the UK and France

‘More-for-more’ price rises continued both during the quarter and after, and appear to be more widespread than the 2016 increases. This should be driving revenue growth at a healthier rate than zero, and may well do as out-of-bundle revenue declines fade away in significance and regulated MTR and roaming cuts annualise out

On the downside, there remain clear disruptive threats from consolidation in Italy, the potential for improved non-incumbent competitor performance in Germany and Spain, and the potential for further consolidation, with its distinctly mixed blessings for competitors, in the UK and France

UK mobile service revenue growth continued to improve, with EE now the clear leader in service revenue growth terms. The rate of improvement has started to slow, but pricing remains solid and data traffic continues to grow healthily

EE’s performance was helped by robust subscriber growth but mainly driven by its very strong ARPU growth, which is in turn driven by ‘more-for-more’ pricing and a service/content tiered pricing model. Others are starting to follow this approach

The short/medium term outlook remains healthy, with the price increases made in Q2 likely to more than compensate for roaming cuts in the latter part of the year.  Looking further forward, the launch of 5G could be disruptive due to the introduction of copious extra spectral capacity, and therefore the results of the upcoming auction will be key for the sector post-2020

BT had a reasonable quarter in its consumer broadband business given market pressures, and a very strong one at EE with continued growth acceleration. It had a good quarter for fibre adoption as well, helping its wholesale divisions stabilise their revenue, but business/IT was weak as expected

Regulatory pressure remains intense despite the (welcome) Openreach agreement, with price cap regulation proposed or due on a range of products, and a regulatory approach which is far from investment-orientated

Pressures in the business/IT market are likely to continue, and pressures in the consumer broadband market are likely to intensify, justifying BT’s current cautious approach to guidance and dividends