BT suffered a weak Q2 with revenue and (particularly) EBITDA declines accelerating, but this was mainly down to timing (particularly at Openreach, which will likely recover in Q3), with the company confident in maintaining full year expectations

BT’s fixed broadband business enjoyed some recovery as the pricing environment improves, but will suffer another price timing bump next quarter, and its mobile business is suffering from a tough market environment that is unlikely to improve in the short term

The company is busy re-branding, re-positioning and transforming, but the outlook for football rights costs and fibre roll-out regulation will dominate in the short term, and further bumps (such as the Virgin MVNO contract loss) may emerge

Mobile sector returns are low, particularly for smaller-scale operators, with H3G earning less than its cost of capital. Regulatory initiatives, spectrum auctions and 5G look set to worsen this picture as H3G strives to gain viable scale

Back-book pricing is crucial to the returns of fixed challengers. Regulatory intervention is likely to lead to a waterbed effect in the fixed sector and exacerbate challenges in mobile

New entrant business case in full fibre is limited to de facto monopoly opportunities. There is the potential for BT’s returns to increase markedly if it gets full fibre right but new entrants’ inferior economics are unlikely to offer sufficient investor appeal

BT’s divisions had contrasting fortunes in Q1 2019/20, with Consumer revenue growth sharply turning negative but Openreach external revenue growth accelerating to 10%, leaving the Group level unchanged at -1% and EBITDA on course to meet guidance.

Consumer was hit by several regulatory and pricing factors mainly affecting mobile, and the short-term outlook remains tough, with a number of legacy pricing issues across fixed and mobile still to be resolved.

Openreach is reaping the benefit of previous price declines annualizing out, allowing it to take full advantage of higher speed demand, and due to its full fibre roll-out this dynamic could persevere for years.
 

BT is accelerating its ‘full fibre’ rollout, likely due to a combination of a successful build to date, very promising regulatory developments, and (let’s not deny it) worrying competitor build plans

Full year results were a little weak versus consensus, with guidance a little soft as well, leading to questions of how this can be funded, particularly the roll-out acceleration from 2021/22 to cover half the country by the mid-2020s

Whatever the funding mechanism, we regard the investment as sound, with BT’s planned operational transformation also promising but potentially requiring further upfront investment

BT’s Q3 results were a little mixed, with mobile particularly weak, but the company remains on track to meet/exceed its (fairly conservative) guidance for the current year, and hit (modest) consensus expectations for 2019/20

Openreach was very weak at the headline level (-9%), but stripping out an accounting effect and internal revenue the division grew by 2% by our estimates despite significant price cuts, and full fibre roll-out is progressing well

While Openreach should accelerate this year, Consumer will be hit by a price rise holiday and slowing mobile, with investors likely having to wait for existing sports rights contracts to play out to see significant profitability improvement

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

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

 

Our latest forecasts point to the continued strength of DTT within the UK broadcast market. We predict DTT-only homes will account for 42% of TV viewing ten years from now, up from 38% today

Much of this is due to the UK’s ageing population profile, since DTT skews older. The number of over-45s in DTT-only homes is set to increase by 13% by 2026

The other key factor is the continued growth of flexible pay-lite services—for example, Netflix and NOW TV—which are of greater appeal to younger audiences

BT had a solid enough quarter, with revenue and EBITDA growth dipping due to pre-warned temporary factors, consumer continuing to outgrow business, and very solid operating trends evident, especially in high speed broadband and mobile

This has of course been entirely overshadowed by the profit warning, with prospective weaknesses in UK public sector and international corporate of far more concern than the contained, albeit surprising, accounting irregularities in Italy

BT has a large share of revenue and a much smaller share of profit from corporate/government data network/IT services, which are erratic in nature and arguably in long term decline in their current form, and without major changes they will continue to be so