By Emma Haslett Friday, 31 January 2014

Goal for BT as profits rise 8%

The telecoms company has posted stonking results - particularly when it comes to fibre-optic broadband.

Yesterday BSkyB was celebrating stronger-than-expected results: now it’s the turn of arch-nemesis BT, which, alas (if you’re BSkyB), has also posted a set of pretty decent numbers for its third quarter.

Well, investors thought so, anyway: shares in BT were up almost 3.5% in early trading this morning, after its results showed revenue had risen by 2% to £4.6bn in the three months to the end of December, while adjusted pre-tax profits rose by 8% to £722m.

All eyes, though, are on BT Sport, the rival to Sky Sports it launched last summer. The company said the service had more than 2.5 million customers during the quarter.

‘We achieved some particularly strong audience figures in December and the exclusive rights to the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League that we have won will strengthen the appeal of our proposition,’ added chief executive Gavin Patterson, before presumably thumbing his nose and blowing a raspberry in the direction of BSkyB.

And, apparently, people have finally got the message about fibre-optic broadband: BT Openreach, the division that manages the UK’s telecoms network, took on 339,000 new superfast broadband customers, which is 38% higher than a year ago. It was a ‘record quarter’, it says – of BT’s 7.1 million broadband customers, 1.9 million now have the superfast service. In fact, according to Patterson, there are now ‘18 million premises with access to our fibre’. So its customer base in that respect could grow exponentially.

The company seems to have got another thing right, too: the number of people disconnecting their lines dropped to 70,000, from 173,000 a year ago.

The challenge now is for BT to retain its dominance in a market where its competitors are becoming increasingly antsy about getting ahead. Last week, the Sunday Times reported that Vodafone and BSkyB (them again) were in talks to launch their own nationwide fibre network, worth billions. It’s BT’s move now...

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