BT leads Britain’s ultra-fast internet drive and brings back dividend

Philip Jansen (BT/PA) (PA Media)

Philip Jansen (BT/PA) (PA Media)

BT said today it will enable ultra-fast Wi-Fi cables to reach a total of six million buildings after a record six months.

This puts it on track to have a full fiber optic network of 25 million buildings by 2026, something which CEO Philip Jansen says will be a result for shareholders and for the nation.

It’s “future proof” for Britain’s internet needs and will be well worth the massive disruption on the roads, he says.

Today, BT reported half-year turnover of £10.3 billion and profit of £1 billion. Both figures are slightly lower than a year ago and in line with City’s expectations. More importantly, a dividend of 2.31p, a yield of 5%, has recovered.

Last June, French billionaire Patrick Drahi took a 12% stake in the company, sparking gossip about a takeover bid. It seems more likely that he sees how strong BT’s cash flow is and expects to reap the rewards later.

His public statements have so far supported BT’s strategy and management, but a six-month commitment not to make an offer will soon expire.

If he were unlucky and joined forces with Deutsche, which also has about 12%, they could force changes at the top.

Jansen said BT reached a cost-saving target of £1bn 18 months earlier and is today putting forward a cost-cutting target of £2bn from 2025 to 2024. “This is all part of creating a leaner BT,” he said.

Jansen says that laying ultra-fast internet cable “is a major technical challenge, each street has its own peculiarities”. But he said “BT has gained momentum” and is the only company moving into rural areas, helping Boris Johnson’s “levelling” agenda. Adam Crozier, the former FA and ITV man, will succeed Jan du Plessis as chairman in November.

Du Plessis, an experienced machinist with a solid track record, did not fully agree with Jansen, which is understandable.

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