Eyes on BT dividend as boss to present results after Covid-19 recovery

BT boss Philip Jansen will hope his company can bounce back from coronavirus, as he has from his infection several weeks ago.

The boss, who was confirmed ill with the disease in the middle of March, is expected to present a drop in revenue for the financial year.

However, eyes are likely to be firmly on the company’s dividend when the results hit the market on Thursday.

Analysts are expecting BT to slash its payment to shareholders for the first time since 2009.

According to an average of 18 analysts, the new full-year dividend is expected to be 14.02p, down from 15.4p a year earlier.

Half the estimates were submitted after the World Health Organisation named coronavirus as a pandemic on March 12.

BT would become the latest in a long line of companies to slash its dividend.

Most dramatically, oil giant Shell lowered its shareholder payout for the first time since the Second World War earlier this week.

Russ Mould, investment director at AJ Bell, said that an implied dividend yield of 13% might be “too good to be true”.

Analysts expect revenue to drop by 2.6% to £22.9 billion, with ebitda (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation) at £7.9 billion, a slight increase.

In the third quarter of the year, BT posted a decline in profits after coughing up in a multi-year rights deal to screen the Champions League and other European leagues.

CMC Markets analyst Michael Hewson said that investors will also be looking for signs of progress in the 5G segment.

“BT’s biggest problem going forward is how much it will cost to roll out fibre broadband to four million premises by 2021, as well as how it will finance the £500 million it will cost to roll out 5G without cutting the dividend or increasing its debt levels substantially,” he said.

Analysts will also look for any updates on the company’s talks to sell its domestic French business to Computacenter.

The potential deal was flagged by BT at the end of March.

While he was recovering from the disease in early April, Mr Jansen promised that he would not fire or furlough any staff for at least three months due to the impacts of coronavirus.

He has also pledged to donate half his salary to charity.

“I don’t want any of you to worry about whether you’ll be paid. The commitment I made to all of you at the start of the coronavirus outbreak still holds true: we’ll continue to pay all of you, for at least the next three months, whatever the circumstances,” Mr Jansen wrote in a letter to staff.