BT on target as sports service helps lift profits

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BT’s first season showing Premier League football helped it to a better-than-expected annual profits boost, as it increased consumer revenues for the first time in a decade.

The telecoms giant, which paid £738m last year to show 38 games a season for three years, also said it had added 170,000 retail broadband customers in the first three months of this year.

Adjusted profits before tax were up by a better-than-expected nine per cent to £901m for the year to March 31, while underlying revenues across the group grew by 0.5 per cent.

Revenues from the consumer arm, which includes the home telephone business as well as broadband packages with free access to BT’s sports channels, grew by four per cent to £4.02bn.

For the fourth quarter they were up nine per cent to £1.07bn, driven by 24 per cent growth from the broadband and BT’s TV platform.

BT has 6,300 staff working in Yorkshire and the Humber. One in every six employees working in the region’s IT and communications sector is employed by the company.

Chief executive Gavin Patterson, unveiling his first set of annual results as BT boss, announced a 15 per cent hike in the group’s full-year dividend and said this was now expected to increase by 10-15 per cent in each of the next two years.

He said: “We have made strong progress this year. BT Sport has proved very popular and we are delighted the service is now in around five million homes.

“These results provide a strong platform for growth, from which to achieve our outlook for the years ahead.”

Shares rose by as much as four per cent yesterday.

BT said it added 46,000 customers to its TV platform in the final quarter, bringing the total to one million.

Other BT Sport viewers watch by satellite, online or through separate platforms that buy the service in wholesale deals.

Meanwhile, the group took the number of high-speed fibre broadband customers to more than 2.1 million.

BT also announced that a roll-out of its fibre network, which can be used by it and other internet providers, has reached more than 19 million homes and businesses, meaning around two-thirds of UK premises can access a much faster service.

Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown stockbrokers, said yesterday, after studying the results: “Strong fourth-quarter numbers added to what had already been an impressive showing from BT.”

The company recently announced that for a second season from this year Premier League games will be available free for broadband customers.

BT has also won the UK rights to show Champions League and Europa League matches, after paying almost £900m to show both Uefa competitions for three seasons from 2015/16.

Latest trading figures from BSkyB showed it added 74,000 new TV customers in the first three months of this year.