BT reports smaller loss than a year ago

BT Group PLC, the U.K.'s largest phone company, reported a smaller quarterly net loss compared to a year ago and said it is starting its new fiscal year in a better financial position.

BT posted a net loss of £2.59 billion (US$3.69 billion as of March 31, the last day of the period being reported) for its fourth quarter, compared with a £2.95 billion net loss in the same period last year, a company spokesman said Thursday.

The London company took a total of £2.88 billion in exceptional charges in the quarter. Most of that amount -- £2.2 billion -- was to write down the value of Internet services unit BT Ignite, which is realigning to focus on large enterprise customers. BT also took a £195 million charge for the unwinding of Concert Communications Co., a former joint venture with AT&T Corp.

BT last year shed its mobile phone unit and most of its overseas interests to focus on its home market fixed-line telephony and Internet access business. Ben Verwaayen, who took over as chief executive earlier this year, has put broadband at the heart of the company's strategy.

Revenue of the group's continued activities before goodwill amortization and exceptional items in the quarter amounted to £4.74 billion, up from £4.51 billion in the year-earlier period.

The company's net debt stood £13.7 billion at the end of March, down from £27.9 billion at the end of March last year. Net debt was broadly flat in the fourth quarter after a £14.3 billion reduction in the previous quarters, chiefly through selling shares, BT said.

"We begin the new year in a stronger financial position," Verwaayen said in a statement.

Shares in BT were up more than 6 percent at £272.25 in midafternoon trading on the London stock exchange.

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