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BT sees revenues hit by business rates and pension charges

PUBLISHED: 09:10 02 February 2018 | UPDATED: 09:10 02 February 2018

BT has reported a fall in revenues as a result of business rates and pesnions costs. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

BT has reported a fall in revenues as a result of business rates and pesnions costs. Picture: Chris Radburn/PA Wire

Telecoms giant BT has revealed falling third-quarter revenues and earnings after it was hit by higher business rates and pension charges.

BT Adastral Park, Ipswich. Picture: Lucy TaylorBT Adastral Park, Ipswich. Picture: Lucy Taylor

The group, which has its research and development headquarters at Martlesham, near Ipswich, saw adjusted earnings drop 2% to £1.8bn in its third quarter to December 31, while sales fell 3% to £5.97bn.

BT put the declines down to increased investment in mobile devices and “customer experience”, along with higher business rates charged on its network assets as well as pension costs.

The company has previously branded business rates as “excessive”.

The group had a pension deficit of £7.9bn as at the end of December, up from £7.7bn as at the end of September.

BT is reportedly planning to close its defined benefit pension scheme to future accruals in a bid to plug a gaping funding hole.

The firm said: “We continue to review the future pension benefits under our main defined benefit and defined contribution schemes in the UK, with the objective of providing fair, flexible and affordable pensions.

“We have completed a consultation with our affected employees and are considering their feedback.”

On a bottom-line basis, pre-tax profits rose 25% to £660m compared to the same quarter last year, when the firm took a hefty hit from an accounting scandal at its Italian division.

BT said it spent another £9m in investigation costs in the first half on the scandal, which resulted in a £530m write-down and a major fall in its share price, knocking £8bn from its market value.

Chief executive Gavin Patterson said: “Our third-quarter financial results are broadly in line with our expectations and we remain confident in our outlook for the full year.

“We continue to improve our customer experience metrics across the group, with our sixth successive quarter of improved customer perception.

“We continue to work closely with the UK Government, Ofcom and our customers to expand the deployment of fibre and Openreach recently announced plans to accelerate our FTTP deployment to three million premises by the end of 2020.”

On Thursday Openreach, which is owned by BT but independently run, announced a drive that will see around three million homes and businesses linked up to ultrafast fibre broadband by 2020.

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