TalkTalk accelerates roll-out of fibre broadband across Yorkshire

TalkTalk's CEO Tristia Harrison. Picture David Harrison.
TalkTalk's CEO Tristia Harrison. Picture David Harrison.
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TALKTALK today said it had added nearly 300,000 customers for its fibre product over the last half year.

The company swung into the black, changing a £4 million loss into a £4 million profit before tax.

Revenue fell 3.6% over the period, compared to the same six months last year, to £792 million, but the company managed to cut costs as it prepares to move into a new headquarters.

The number of new fibre broadband customers rose 52% to 292,000, to a total of around two million, TalkTalk said.

Tristia Harrison, Chief Executive of TalkTalk, commented: “We’re pleased that our clear strategy to accelerate customer growth in fibre broadband while also reducing costs has led to a significant increase in profitability in the first half, with a 14 per cent year-on-year increase in like-for-like EBITDA. We now have over two million customers taking a fibre product, adding nearly 300,000 customers in the half.

“Fibre broadband is good news for customers and TalkTalk. It offers a faster, more reliable service whilst also reducing churn and comes with a materially lower cost to serve. In addition, our soon to be completed HQ move and shift to a self-service model is underpinning our cost reductions.”

Last year, TalkTalk revealed that it had launched a new company called FibreNation, which will roll out fibre to up to 60,000 homes in Harrogate, Knaresborough and Ripon.

In 2017, TalkTalk Ultra Fibre Optic Broadband also sponsored York’s first hot air balloon festival.

Last month, TalkTalk revealed that it had become a member of the Government’s Northern Powerhouse Partner Programme.

The company said that the move reinforced its commitment to growing the economy in the North of England.

TalkTalk piloted its full fibre product, UFO, in York and it is on track to connect 55,000 premises by 2020 as part of its £100m investment across Yorkshire.

It has since announced plans to roll-out the scheme to Harrogate, Ripon, Knaresborough and Dewsbury. Construction work in Dewsbury began last month and will cover 61,000 premises.

TalkTalk also said that a deal to sell its FibreNation business had stalled after the Labour Party announced a plan to create a “British Broadband” public service.

TalkTalk said it was still in discussions with interested parties regarding its FibreNation business.

“Our discussions are very advanced, and yes, the news overnight of course is making everybody in the sector pause and consider,” Chief Executive Tristia Harrison told Reuters.

“We were really close, really close, but I think something of this sort that is in the news, obviously everybody is... digesting and working out what it means.”

TalkTalk launched FibreNation last year with the aim of connecting 60,000 more homes in northern England with “fibre-to-the-premises” full gigabit speed connections.

The plan underlined its ambition to build its own ultrafast network reaching three million customers after it abandoned a plan to team up with M&G Prudential.

Ms Harrison said that the company had invested £60 million in FibreNation, adding that it was a tiny part of the business.

She said the company had fielded an “awful lot of interest” in the business and was pleased with how the takeover process was going.

Sky News reported that Goldman Sachs-backed CityFibre Holdings nearly signed a deal to acquire FibreNation on Thursday.

Apart from the fibre service provided by FibreNation, TalkTalk depends on BT’s Openreach network to provide its services.

Openreach would be nationalised under Labour’s plan, and Harrison said the industry was still contemplating the broader repercussions of the plan.

She spoke after TalkTalk reiterated its earnings outlook for the year, and said she was confident the company could continue to grow despite the uncertainties in Britain’s political environment.

“We feel we’re in a strong place,” she said.