Why BT Is Up 15% This Year

LONDON -- BT (ISE: BT-A.L) (NYS: BT) has advanced 15% to 220 pence so far during 2012, making the share one of this year's best performers in the FTSE 100.

The telecoms group, whose 11 million household customers collectively spent 38 billion minutes on the phone last year, has defied the wider economic gloom with a series of resilient statements.

During February, BT announced third-quarter results that showed sales down 5% to 4.7 billion pounds and adjusted profits up 8% to 790 million pounds. The group also said its fixed-line customer base had grown for the last five quarters and claimed free cash flow for the full year would be around 2.4 billion pounds.

In fact, May's full-year figures showed free cash flow of 2.5 billion pounds. BT's annual numbers also revealed adjusted sales declining 4% to 19.3 billion pounds and adjusted profits advancing 6% to 3.1 billion pounds.

Ian Livingstone, BT's chief exec, said at the time:

In what remains a challenging environment we have delivered another year of growth in profits and free cash flow. Our financial strength has allowed us to invest in the business, make a 2billion-pound payment into the pension fund, reward employees and deliver double digit growth in shareholder returns.

He also promised the dividend would grow between 10% and 15% per year for the next three years, and that 300 million pounds would be spent on share buybacks during 2013.

Then in July, BT published a first-quarter update that showed sales down 6% to 4.8 billion pounds and profits up 6% to 740 million pounds. The group said the progress was based on "good performances" in BT Retail, BT Wholesale and Openreach, although BT Global Services "was affected by the tough conditions in Europe and the financial services sector."

BT's next update will occur on Nov. 1 with the group's half-year results, which may provide further resilient news.

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