Outgoing BT Chairman says Business is Secure

BT’s future as a company is based on the solid foundations of financial stability, regulatory certainty and global capability. 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 Sage in Gateshead. The speech was Sir Christopher’s final address to BT’s shareholders before retiring in September, to be succeeded as chairman by Sir Michael Rake, currently chairman of KPMG International.

Describing last year’s performance as “very strong”, Sir Christopher noted some financial highlights: “Our revenues grew by 4% to over £20.2 billion. Our profit grew by 15% to £2,495 million. And earnings per share were up 16% to 22.7p. I am delighted to confirm that we have increased the full year dividend by 27 per cent to 15.1 pence.” Sir Christopher also confirmed that BT has achieved the ratio of dividends to earnings of two-thirds “one year earlier than planned. In future we expect to increase the dividend, taking into account our earnings growth, cash generation and ongoing investment needs.”

Referring to BT’s strategy, Sir Christopher emphasised that BT would maintain “a continual focus on customers. We succeed by understanding what they want today, and by anticipating what they will want tomorrow”.

Looking back on his six year tenure at the company, Sir Christopher noted that when he joined: “We were suffering from the ailments common to many European telecoms companies. We needed to raise cash, sell non-core businesses and reshape the business.” These strategic priorities “were addressed within 12 months, making BT the first telco in Europe to tackle these issues head-on.”

Summing up, Sir Christopher noted: “We have established secure foundations on which future growth can now be built. We see a marketplace which is highly competitive but full of exciting opportunities. We have come a long way, but there is much more to be achieved. There is a momentum in BT which continues to build, and management is clearly focused on the opportunities which lie ahead.

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