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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 May, 2004, 11:28 GMT 12:28 UK
Internet helps lift BT earnings
Coin-fed call box phones
Mobiles have challenged some of BT's traditional services
BT Group, the UK's dominant phone company, has reported a 10% rise in annual profit as it focuses on services such as rapid internet connections.

Pre-tax profit before one-off items was 2.02bn ($3.6bn) in the 12 months to 31 March from 1.83bn a year earlier.

BT said that turnover was little changed for the year and in the fourth quarter, a sign it may be staving off competition from rival services.

BT has been trying to offset declining demand for fixed-line calls.

Chief executive Ben Verwaayen said he was confident that the company was better prepared for the future.

"In the transformation of the company, it's absolutely clear that this is a different BT," he told reporters.

Analysts also welcomed the news and BT shares climbed 2.9% to 178.5p. The stock was one of the few FTSE 100 stocks that advanced on Thursday as the benchmark index shed 0.8%.

Branching out

During the past fiscal year, BT said it more than doubled the number of subscribers to its broadband internet service to 2.5 million users.

In the fourth quarter, it was adding 35,000 new broadband subscribers every week.

Revenue from broadband internet, which offers faster download times than dial up connections, doubled to 491m last year.

The group has continued to make good progress"
Sir Christopher Bland, chairman of BT

As well as the internet, BT is focusing on corporate telecoms customers, providing packages such as its BT Business Plan and BT Local Business.

The company said that this "has helped mitigate the decline in the traditional business".

"The group has continued to make good progress this year, and delivered strong financial results while continuing to transform the business," said chairman Sir Christopher Bland.

Investors will now be hoping BT can increase its revenues.

Full-year turnover was down 1% at 18.52bn, while fourth quarter revenue was unchanged.

During the fourth quarter, pre-tax profit slid 6% to 459m from the previous 490m.

Its share of the consumer market also dipped to 69%, down by 0.5% from the third quarter and by 2.9% from a year earlier. BT said it has a 40% slice of the business market.

More pleasing for shareholders will be a full-year dividend of 8.5 pence, an increase of almost a third.

The BBC's Brian Milligan
"BT isn't giving up on phones"

BT chief executive Ben Verwaayen
"Customers want hassle-free communication"

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