The BT Story

BT Group synopsis

February 2015

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BT is a public limited company, registered on the London Stock Exchange and with a secondary listing on the New York Stock Exchange. The company was de-nationalised in December 1983, with further tranches of government-held BT stock being sold off in 1991 and 1993.

BT’s shareholders paid the equivalent of about £20bn in 2014 prices to acquire all the assets of BT. Since privatisation, BT has invested many times more than that £20bn in maintaining and upgrading its network

Our shareholders continue to include one million private citizens.

BT today

Our purpose, goal, strategy and culture

BT today is a modern communications services company, providing a range of services in the UK and in more than 170 countries. About a quarter of BT revenues are earned outside the UK providing services to multinationals and other large organisations from NATO to the Brazilian national lottery. BT has around 88,000 people in 61 countries, around 72,000 work in the UK.

BT has recently agreed definitive terms to acquire mobile business EE for £12.5bn. The combination of EE and BT will provide customers with innovative, seamless communications services that combine the power of fibre broadband with wi-fi and advanced mobile capabilities.

The transaction is subject to approval by the shareholders of BT and merger clearance, in particular from the UK Competition and Markets Authority. It is expected to complete before the end of BT’s 2015/16 financial year.

Financial performance (2011/12, 2012/13 and 2013/14)

 
 

Full year
to 31 Mar 2014

Full year
to 31 Mar 2013

Full year
to 31 Mar 2012

Revenue1

£18,287m

£18,339m

£19,397m

EBITDA1

£6,116m

£6,143m

£6,034m

Profit before tax1

£2,827m

£2,656m

£2,391m

Capital expenditure

£2,346m

£2,438m

£2,594m

Normalised free cash flow2

£2,450m

£2,300m

£2,307m

Earnings per share1

28.2p

26.3p

23.4p

1 before specific items
2 before specific items, purchases of telecommunications licences, pension deficit payments and the cash tax benefit of pension deficit payments.

At 31 December 2014, BT shares closed at 401.5p, valuing the company at GBP33 billion. Over the previous 12 months, BT shares rose 6%, outperforming the FTSE100 which declined 3%.

Why BT is good for the UK

In 2008, in the teeth of recession, the BT Board approved a £2.5bn investment to make fibre-optic broadband available to two thirds of the UK’s 28m (approx.) domestic and small business premises. BT moved earlier than many overseas telcos, meaning that by the end of 2014, the UK was ahead of other major EU states for making fibre broadband available to homes and SMEs.

We are one of the world’s biggest telecoms R&D investors, in 2013/14 we invested £530m, and the benefits can be seen in, for example, faster and more reliable broadband as modifications and breakthroughs are made by our experts. Also:

  • we invest at least 1% of pretax profits in good causes each year, £27m in 2013/14.
  • BT hires 500 apprentices annually and hired 1,000 forces personnel in 2013/14.
  • BT supports the growth of British business, serving 94% of FTSE companies and 1m SMEs. 

Broadband availability and speed in the UK

BT has been crucial to putting the UK ahead in broadband provision. According to Ofcom’s December 2014 EU scorecard, the UK continues to lead the top five EU economies on virtually all the key measures across coverage, take-up, use and competition. Ofcom’s December 2014 update stated average UK broadband speeds were 23Mbps, enough to watch three HDTV feeds on different devices. This average speed, which benchmarks well internationally, is due in large part to BT’s fibre investment.

According to Ofcom’s latest Communications Market Report (autumn 2014), superfast broadband is now available to 78% of UK premises. And the EU 2014 Digital Agenda Scoreboard says it’s 82% (these figures are for all networks and include Virgin coverage).

According to Ofcom’s latest Infrastructure Report, December 2014, 97% of premises can now receive a broadband connection of over 2Mbps (enough to watch standard definition TV services such as BT iPlayer). And 85% of premises can receive 10Mbps or more.

More than 99% of UK premises have access to basic broadband (defined by the OECD as any service of 256kbps or greater, enough to handle email and basic internet functionality). This is the best in the G8.

Ofcom’s Cost and Value of Communications Services in the UK Report, January 2014, found that in the last 10 years:

  • broadband speeds, availability and use have increased while prices have declined
  • the average price of a broadband package decreased by 48% between 2004 and 2012 in real terms.
  • the price of a typical bundle of fixed line services has also fallen
  • the UK ranks cheapest, or second cheapest, against the US and major EU economies for most mixed baskets of communications service.

Investment in fibre and broadband

BT invested over £3bn to rollout fibre optic broadband to the two-thirds of UK premises where we could make a commercial case for investment, and in rural areas (the final third) where we have been rolling out fibre in conjunction with government body Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK). Almost 22m premises have now been passed.

Central and local government organised a tender process where companies could bid for about £1bn of public money to supplement their own funds and roll out fibre to most of the premises not covered by BT’s commercial programme. This is overseen by BDUK. Fujitsu took part in the process but BT won every tender and is now committed to delivering 46 rural broadband contracts signed with local authorities.

BDUK aims to achieve superfast (defined as 24Mbps) broadband coverage to 90% of the UK by early 2016 (note, the 90% figure is for coverage by all networks, so a small part of the 90% are premises reliant on Virgin Media infrastructure rather than BT). The government and BDUK plan a second phase of subsidy to extend fibre coverage to 95% of domestic and SME premises by end of 2017.

We have just announced plans to deliver much faster broadband for homes and small businesses through ‘G.fast, a new standard for broadband connectivity that enables even higher speeds.

A higher proportion of UK premises can access fibre broadband than in any of the other four major European economies (Germany, France, Spain, and Italy). The UK take-up rate is also faster than most other countries, including all the other big-four European economies.

Customer experience

BT invested £80m during 2014 to enable us to prioritise and focus on further improving the reliability of our products and services.

We are rebalancing our onshore and offshore mix of call centres in order to do more of our customer work onshore. In BT’s Consumer line of business we grew our UK service headcount by nearly 10% in the past year and have plans to hire hundreds more people by year end 2014/15.

We also have more engineers in the field. We hired 1,600 extra engineers in 2014, as well as 300 Modern Apprentices, and plan to hire 500 more by the end of the financial year 2014/15. Some will replace natural churn but around half of the new intake will be specifically focused on our commitment to continue to deliver improved levels of customer service.

We have a new dedicated team (Customer Resolution/Priority Care) to case manage complex problems and complaints. This means that a customer has a single direct contact who will own their issue and keep them updated until it is resolved.

Child abuse images online

BT is a pioneer in blocking online images of child abuse. In 2004 we worked with the Internet Watch Foundation (IWF) to develop ‘Cleanfeed’, the world’s first system for blocking this offensive and illegal material. BT shared the underlying way that Cleanfeed works with other ISPs.

BT also helped lead the talks which resulted in the creation of the IWF. We acted in this area because child abuse images are clearly illegal, something that may not be the case with pornography involving adults, or with ‘hate’ material.

The IWF works with law enforcement agencies and carries out its own investigations and monitoring of online content, then creates a blacklist of sites to be blocked. BT and other ISPs fund the IWF. BT has more than doubled its funding of the IWF and its partners in the past two years.

Child online safety

BT has offered free parental software for years, where parents install software enabling them to block selected categories of content. BT now provides ‘Active Choice’, where consumers are forced to choose between having filters on or off when setting up a home internet connection for the first time. The set-up process takes the user to a set-up page which they cannot ignore or avoid, and which requires a choice – child protection filters on or off?

BT, mobiles and wi-fi

BT is fundamental to mobile telephony, not least because mobile calls are usually carried part of the way on our landline network.

BT Wi-fi is the UK’s largest public wi-fi network.We are the only broadband company in the UK to provide unlimited access at millions of BT Wi-fi hotspots as part of broadband packages. We have over 5m wi-fi hotspots in the UK and Ireland, plus more than seven million international hotspots through our partner Fon We have the largest wi-fi network in the UK and believe this to be a critical asset in the infrastructure race of the future.

Skills and training

BT has had an apprenticeship scheme in place for over 50 years and recruits around 500 young people every year onto our apprenticeship programme. Our current apprenticeship scheme delivers 15 different apprenticeship programmes and is rated as ‘Outstanding’ by Ofsted.

BT also runs work Inspiration for Year 10 school children across England, Wales and Scotland. We give around 4000 school children a taste of work each year and set business challenges that allow them to start thinking about the practical application of their skills in a work situation.

BT announced in spring 2014 that over the next 18 months it will provide up to 1,500 vocational training and work-experience placements, mainly for out of work 16-24 year olds. This forms part of BT’s commitment to the UK employer-led initiative ‘Movement to Work’ which is backed by the Prince’s Trust and the Government and is aimed at tackling youth unemployment.

BT in Health

BT has been working with the UK’s National Health Service (NHS) for more than 65 years. The NHS depends on our technology and support to keep critical services running.

Together we created N3, the NHS broadband network, securely connecting every GP surgery, hospital and clinic in England. We’re also working with community, acute and mental health organisations to deliver clinical information systems – connecting 230,000 healthcare professionals and transforming the way patient care is delivered.

We are building on this work to provide innovative solutions such as telehealth allowing patients with long term conditions (such as chronic lung or heart disease) to have their condition monitored from home.

Inclusion

Creating an inclusive organisation is a key element in delivering our business objectives. We work with a number of specialist organisations to benchmark our practices independently across a wide range of diversity measures. It is our policy that everyone should have the same opportunities for employment and promotion based on their ability, qualifications and suitability for the work.

BT embraces diversity and has popular employee networks such as: BT Muslim Network, BT Christian Network, BT Ethnic Minority Network, BT Women’s Network, Able2 (our disability network) and BT Kaleidoscope, our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender group.

Having a physical disability, mental health issue, or other health condition should not be a barrier to employment. As a UK Job Centre “Plus Two Ticks” employer, BT actively promotes the recruitment, development and retention of disabled people.

As an inclusive employer, we have policies and tools in place to ensure all our people are treated fairly and are supported to achieve their potential. Our self-declared disability rate is 5.3% (we ask our people to report this voluntarily) with 4.1% of this year’s new recruits registered as disabled.

We have been commended for our commitment to recruiting, retaining and progressing women and ranked in the Top 10 private sector organisations benchmarked by Business in the Community (BITC) Race for Opportunity and Opportunity Now. BT appeared in The Times Top 50 Employers for Women 2014.

Our maternity and paternity policies go beyond the statutory minimum. In 2011/12 (the most recent year for which data is available), 88.5% of women returned to work at BT after maternity leave and remained with us for at least 12 months. This compares favourably with the national average of 77%.

Better Future

Being a responsible and sustainable business leader remains at the heart of our strategy. It supports our goal to deliver sustainable, profitable revenue growth, while ensuring we maximise the contribution we make to society and the environment.

BT has set itself three goals to achieve by 2020 which will help it to grow sustainably, especially in new emerging markets. The goals focus on connecting people digitally (‘Connected Society’), using our skills and technology to help society support good causes (‘Improving Lives’), and ensuring BT makes a net positive contribution to the environment (‘Net Good’). They are rooted in what BT does best – bringing together our networks and technology with the expertise of our people to make a better world.

We invested £27m in society in 2013/14, 1.01% of adjusted pre-tax profits, in addition to the £3bn or so that we pay to the Exchequer each year. Our employees donated an additional £2.5 million through Give as You Earn schemes. BT people also provided over 46,000 days of volunteering activity in the community in 2013/14.

We are committed to minimising our impact on the environment and reducing the carbon intensity of our global business by 80% against 1997 levels by 2020. We want to make a positive contribution to society by investing in communities.

In the UK, one of the charities we support is ChildLine, the emergency helpline for children and young people. Since 2002, we have donated services worth £5 million and helped the charity raise more than £6.5 million. We also fund and manage the UK's largest corporate education programme in schools.