BT goes it alone on superfast broadband expansion

BT has ditched plans to bring in an outside investor to boost its superfast broadband upgrade, as profits slipped ahead of a potential takeover bid by the French billionaire Patrick Drahi. 

The chief executive, Philip Jansen, said he held talks with potential investors, but opted not to create a joint venture with its infrastructure builder Openreach to help bring the fastest connections to an extra 5m homes. 

He said the decision to row back was driven by the falling cost of upgrading its ageing copper network to faster full-fibre alongside a better-than-expected take up for the service.

BT’s plan to upgrade 25m homes and business to full-fibre by 2026 would now be solely delivered by Openreach.

Mr Jansen said: “We have conducted an extensive review and held discussions with prospective investors. However with fibre to the premise build costs coming down and take-up ahead of expectations, we have decided to retain 100pc of the project for shareholders and to remain fully focused on driving build and take-up.”

Meanwhile, revenues fell 3pc to £10.3bn for the six months to September as a stronger performance from Openreach failed to offset falls across its business connectivity arm and global IT services operation.  

Pre-tax profits were also down 5pc to £1bn for the period, as the telecoms operator came under pressure from higher finance costs. 

BT reaffirmed a Telegraph report that it had delivered £1bn in cost savings 18 months early at a cost to the business of £571m. 

The move prompted the company to bring forward £2bn of annual cost savings from 2025 to 2024. It now expects to slash a further £1.3bn of costs from the organisation by 2025. 

The acceleration on costs comes as BT braces for a takeover tilt from Mr Drahi, who would be allowed to make a formal approach for the company in December. 

The founder of the French broadband challenger Altice has been barred from bidding since June when he became BT’s biggest shareholder after building up a 12pc stake.

At the time he said he had no intention of making an offer.

Mr Jansen said the results demonstrated an acceleration of pace in the transformation of BT as he announced an interim shareholder payment of 2.31p. 

“We are creating a better BT for our customers, the country and our shareholders,” he added. 

“We’re going further and faster on the UK’s next generation connectivity; we’re modernising BT and bringing down costs; and we’re reinstating the dividend today.”

BT said talks over a potential sale of sports television arm BT Sport were continuing. 

DAZN, the streaming service backed by billionaire Sir Leonard Blavatnik’s Access Industries, is in advanced talks to buy the channel. Shares rose 3.4pc in early trading.