Annual General Meeting - 2002
At the 2002 AGM, the Chairman fielded questions from shareholders that addressed a wide range of issues, from the recent share price performance and directors' remuneration to the focus on broadband and the company's financial accounting procedures.
Sir Christopher told shareholders that BT Group did not follow the accounting procedures allegedly adopted by troubled US telecoms company, Worldcom.
Group Finance Director, Ian Livingston, confirmed: "We believe our accounts to be entirely properly stated and in accordance with UK standards."
A shareholder asked if the board was prepared to turn "broadband rhetoric" into a genuine success story over the next 12 months and Sir Christopher said: "We stand by our target of one million ADSL connections by next summer.
"It's a remarkable target to have set and I believe its uniting BT across a number of divisions. It's having an electrifying and unifying effect on BT."
Sir Christopher strongly disputed that the company's customer complaints handling was "rotten to the core". "It is a very testing and complicated process," he said. "I believe our staff are extremely dedicated and do their best to give good customer service. It is also true to say that we could do better. We know that and we are working hard on it."
Asked when he expected growth in the share value, Sir Christopher said: "Soon, I hope. If we please our customers and control our costs, then I believe, as night follows day, the share price will follow."
Continuing on a financial theme, the Chairman said BT was a good corporate citizen and that £15 million was disbursed to community projects last year. In reference to board members' remuneration he said: "Our rewards are focused on very, very clear financial and customer satisfaction objectives." He added that bonuses for top executives were relative to the company's performance in comparison with the other FTSE 100 companies. Payments to previous directors had been in line with contractual agreements, he said.
And, in response to a point about the company's debt, Sir Christopher said: "When you've been through as painful a process as we have to get the debt down, you never want to get back into that position again."