Thursday, November 10, 2005

More power to...

Today was BT's Q2 release, and at one point my boss, an oil analyst, seeing the share price down the better part of 3%, appeared by my desk to say, "Maybe BT should take its inspiration from BP in its corporate identity." What he was referring to is BP's marketing campaign, which stresses the idea that "BP" stands for "Beyond Petroleum." In other words, BT needs to be "Beyond Telecom," and God knows I think the management have adequately stated that idea by now. Vision is an important thing, and certainly BT has plenty of it, but the sad truth is that here in the present, BT is a company with a critical retail presence which is hurting: voice line loss of 8% annualized, market share in consumer telephony down another two percentage points, the proportion of consumer revenues "locked in" via contracts stalled at 65%, share of DSL net adds in decline again, a second quarter of net subscriber losses on the MVNO, customer losses on the MVNO in the quarter equivalent to the number of pre-registrations for Fusion. Every single KPI seemed to be wrong this time out, and the situation is not helped by both Sky and Carphone Warehouse, two credible consumer brands, going for 1,000 exchange unbundling programs over the next year. Nor was it a good day for Telewest to release results, showing that it and NTL combined had the best quarter for broadband net adds in nearly three years. I respect BT, and I think they have a reasonable chance of morphing into something with staying power, but the transition to that something is painful to watch from the outside - it must be crazy-making on the inside.

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