Investment bank backs the BT waiting game

Don’t expect BT to give too much away over the next couple of months, but investment bank Jefferies thinks there is enough there to make the telco a good bet.

The arrival of new BT CEO Philip Jansen has sparked the prospect of the telcos revival, at least from a share price perspective, though Jefferies believes cards will be held very close to the chest for the moment. Don’t expect too much insight on future strategies over the near-future, but the foundations seem steady enough to put BT in a solid position.

The last few years have not made for comfortable reading for many BT investors. In November 2015, share price stood at £4.99. This was not a historical high, but it was a peak in recent memory. Since that point, share price has declined 56% after gains from EE remained elusive, the Openreach position was challenged and a disastrous entry into the content game. Under former-CEO Gavin Patterson, BT entered a slump.

That said, in January BT reported positive results, suggesting the restructuring process implemented over the last 12 months was setting the foundations for recovery. Jansen was entering a business which was in a reasonable position.

“BT welcomes its new CEO with foundations to build on, not a slate to wipe clean,” the Jefferies investor note states.

However, with Jansen’s first earnings call just weeks away, don’t expect too much insight on BT’s future strategy. With Ofcom’s Access Review still yet to see the light of day, it would be “illogical” for BT to make too much of a commitment in the near future.

Depending on the outcome of this review, there might be room for Openreach to consider premiums on FTTP, there might be demands to increase CAPEX, there might be a need to cut Dividend Per Share (DPS). There are too many maybe’s floating around the regulatory uncertainty created by government ambitions to fibre-up 15 million UK homes by 2025.

While there is a suggestion DPS growth might freeze or reverse, this could allow BT to redirect funds towards the CAPEX column at Openreach. This could assist the telco in creating a friendlier relationship with Ofcom, an outcome which would be beneficial for everyone involved.

Jefferies feels there are too many unknowns for the telco to make any concrete commitments moving forward, but in encouraging customers to Buy BT, there is seemingly a lot of confidence.

Verizon reworks the corporate jigsaw puzzle in the name of 5G

Verizon has unveiled a new corporate structure in an attempt to make a lean, mean, money-making machine at the dawn of the 5G era.

While many of these announcements are usually coupled with some form of job cuts, there doesn’t seem to be one in this case. We’ve been unable to locate the relevant forms on the Securities and Exchanges Commission website, though considering there have been numerous ‘streamlining’ initiatives already announced, it might be a case of fitting the business around the new headcount.

“This new structure reflects a clear strategy that starts with Verizon customers,” said CEO Hans Vestberg. “We’re building on our network transformation efforts and the Intelligent Edge architecture to deliver new customer experiences and optimize the growth opportunities we see as leaders in the 5G era. We’re focused on how our technology can benefit customers’ lives and society at large.”

The new Verizon business will be organized into three business functions (Consumer, business and Media), supported by a network and IT organization, and corporate-wide staff functions. The consumer group will feature both the wireless and the broadband business units, as well as wireless wholesale, led by Ronan Dunne, who is currently President of Verizon Wireless. The business unit will include the wireless and wireline enterprise, small and medium business, and government businesses, as well as wireline wholesale and Verizon Connect, the company’s telematics business, headed up by Tami Erwin, the current EVP of Wireless Operations. The media unit will essentially be the Oath business, with current CEO Guru Gowrappan in charge. Kyle Malady will lead the network and technology department, while there will no changes to the management team on the corporate side.

While job losses have been an unavoidable topic in the telco world over the last couple of years, Verizon made a pretty weighty announcement last month. In an effort to trim the number of lifers and dead-weight in the management layer, Verizon offered 44,000 staff a redundancy package of three weeks of severance pay for every year worked, though it is not entirely clear how many heads the telco want to count rolling out the front door.

As it stands, Verizon currently employs 153,000 people across its various markets, though this figure was as high as 183,400 in 2012. What is worth noting is that it would be unfair to point the finger of destruction at Verizon alone, the trend is clearly visible across an industry rocked by OTTs, and a North American market which has consistently and aggressively sought to undercut rivals.

With many telcos around the world attempting to take advantage of the convergence trend, perhaps this new structure will offer Verizon a leg-up. The launch of its 5G fixed wireless access business certainly gives the business something to talk about, though with both the consumer wireless and broadband units now on the same branch of the family tree, a more consolidated approach on products, tariffs and marketing can be taken. How this impacts the Verizon message remains to be seen, though an aggressive 5G assault is almost guaranteed with new devices promised over the next 12 months.

Research from RepeaterStore suggests only 41% of US consumers were aware 5G is just around the corner, and while the conversation for many telcos is now focusing on the enterprise side, in the US the 5G p*ssing contest appears to be circling the consumer. With such low consumer knowledge of 5G, the telcos will have to do a considerable marketing push to communicate the benefits of 5G.