It has been quite a week for BT Sport, with two cracking Champions League semi finals. But in BT's full-year results announcement this morning — the first under new chief executive Philip Jansen — the service got a measly two mentions.
Instead, the focus is all on fibre broadband, 5G, and the dividend as Jansen sets out his strategy on how to return BT to growth. Fibre to the premises (so-called FTTP) targets were lifted, as expected, from 3m to 4m premises being passed by March 2021 and 10m-15m by the mid-2020s, but only if conditions are right — a nod to pragmatism when so much depends on government policy. BT's mobile network EE meanwhile will launch 5G imminently, it confirmed, with the service to go live in 16 cities this year. And the dividend is to be held steady not just for the 2018-19 financial year but the next one as well. That had been a key area of concern among investors, who worried fibre investment would necessitate a cut.
For the financial year just finished, revenues were down 1 per cent to £23.4bn, and although pre-tax profits climbed 2 per cent to £2.7bn, its adjusted earnings metric fell by the same amount to £7.4bn as declines in its enterprise and Openreach units offset growth in consumer and international. Those figures will get worse before they get better. For the new year, adjusted revenues are set for a further 2 per cent fall while adjusted earnings will drop to £7.2bn-£7.3bn because of "challenging market conditions, regulatory pressure" and a move away from low-margin products.
Ahead of today's results, analysts at Berenberg had 13 questions for Jansen. There are likely many more to come.
Wm Morrison had a tough first quarter, as it braces for an even more difficult one ahead. The contribution of its retail business to like-for-like sales growth slowed to a paltry 0.2 per cent in the first quarter, down from 0.6 per cent in the final three months of last year and worse than expected. Its wholesale business contributed 2.1 per cent. The supermarket said the performance was robust given the context of political and economic uncertainty. In the second quarter, not only will that continue but the results face tough comparisons with 2018, when there was a heatwave and a World Cup. Separately, Ocado and Morrisons have done a deal that will free up warehouse space for Ocado after its fire, and see the end of the exclusive relationship with Ocado to deliver Morrisons' online groceries.
Superdry warned full-year underlying profit before tax was likely to be below market expectations. There is a risk of kitchen-sinking here given the recent return of founder Julian Dunkerton and a change in management team at the fashion company. Investors will be more concerned with the outlook at the full year announcement on July 4, when a strategy update is due.
There are also updates from Barratt, the FTSE 100 house builder, which said it had a strong start to 2019 and the outlook for the full year was now "modestly above" the board's previous expectations, insurer RSA, National Express and others. Also today is the vote on Debenhams CVA. For all the latest news click here.
David Roper, executive vice-chairman of Melrose and one of the turnround specialist's three founders, is to leave the group next year. Victory in the fiercely fought battle over GKN is not such a bad note to go out on.
Energy services group Wood has appointed Roy Franklin — an industry veteran and current chair of both fracking group Cuadrilla and North Sea producer Premier Oil — as its next chairman. Franklin has an extensive oil and gas CV, having worked as an executive in the sector for more than 40 years.
Jane Aikman has left Arqiva less than a year after being appointed as CFO. Ms Aikman joined the UK’s largest tower company in July 2018 after it pulled plans to float because of a shaky IPO market. Sean West, who joined the company in 2015, will take on the role until a permanent replacement is found.
Asian markets were bearing the brunt of investors’ worries about the chances for a trade deal between the US and China. Nearly all of the region’s major indices were firmly in the red, with China’s CSI 300 on course for its worst week since October, down by around 8 per cent since Monday. Futures trade expected a steadier showing from Europe and the US.
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Beyond the Square Mile
McDonald’s is in talks to settle a dispute with its business partner in India, a move that would draw a line under a protracted episode that has stifled the fast-food chain’s growth in the world’s second most populous market.
Wells Fargo has created a new senior executive position to oversee the operational and compliance improvements demanded by regulators in the wake of its fake accounts scandal.
General Motors said it is in early talks to try to sell its plant in Lordstown, Ohio, which builds the Cadillac XTS and Chevrolet Impala, to a Nasdaq-listed start-up that is developing an electric delivery truck.
Uber is eyeing a price for its initial public offering at or below the midpoint of its indicated $44-to-$50 range, reflecting the recent pullback in the US stock market and the dismal performance of rival Lyft.
Closing quote — essential comment before you go
The latest KPMG fine shows that, no matter what the excuses, the audit profession has not functioned properly for weeks, months, years or decades.
Combining the two lenders Provident Financial and Non-Standard Finance looks like a rescue for NSF investors, including prominent fund manager Neil Woodford, who is a shareholder in both. The Provident side is right to brand the deal a loser.
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