BT’s transformation from old-fashioned telco to modern communications services provider is accelerating. That was the key message delivered yesterday by BT chairman Sir Christopher Bland when addressing the company’s shareholders at the Annual General Meeting at the Barbican, London.
Describing last year as “excellent”, Sir Christopher noted some financial highlights: “Our revenues grew by 6 per cent to over £19.5 billion. Profit before tax and specific items grew 5 per cent to nearly £2.2 billion. Earnings per share before specific items grew by 8 per cent to 19.5 pence. In 2005-6, we further reduced the level of our debt to £7.5 billion while at the same time spending over £360 million buying back our own shares. The year’s dividend pay-out ratio was 61 per cent of earnings and we expect it to rise to around two-thirds of earnings in the 2007-8 financial year.”
Referring to BT’s strategy, Sir Christopher emphasised that BT’s focus has been on delivering “what millions of customers want – using the internet to make cheap international phone calls, or using the broadband network to deliver the BT Vision TV service later this year.”
Turning to the recent regulatory settlement and the subsequent creation of Openreach, Sir Christopher was unequivocal in describing the former as “the biggest regulatory change since BT was privatised more than 20 years ago.” He continued: “We believe it marks the start of a new era of investment and innovation, and will allow regulation to roll back in most market areas outside the local network.”
Summing up, Sir Christopher noted: “Ours is a company which succeeds by enabling people and organisations to change. But to do this, some factors in our business need to be unchanging. One of those factors is the commitment of our people who have shown immense dedication, determination, talent and ingenuity over the last few years.”
Sir Christopher concluded his speech by thanking BT’s shareholders for their loyalty to the company.