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BT bashed about by City – again, again

Killing its dividend now

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BT has seen its shares drop another six per cent on the leaked news that it will cut or even scrap its dividend in its annual results. According to numerous sources, the troubled telecoms monster is hoping to save over £1 billion by simply refusing to pay a dividend.

This may please the new board hoping to cut BT's debt by £10 billion to £20 billion, but it is unlikely to please millions of shareholders who have not only seen their investment plummet in value but will now receive no lump sum to reward their year-long loyalty.

Rumour is also rife that BT will bring forward its planned final results announcement from next week to tomorrow. It may also use tomorrow to announce its planned £4 billion or £5 billion rights issue. Another cause for investors to be less than happy.

Of course, BT has maintained its usual arrogant stance on such "rumour and speculation". It won't comment on any of it - "the next scheduled announced is on 17 May" said BT's spokesparrot. This attitude was more bearable when BT was a feared telco as opposed to the derided, sick animal that has seen two of its three main directors ousted in recent months. It is also daft when the company currently has more leaks than a sieve.

That aside, while BT may be suffering the hangover from hell, Sir Christopher Bland has brought some much-needed Alka Seltzer to the party. Scrapping the dividend - traditionally the sure sign that you are a monster of commerce like ICI - will hopefully be BT's lowest point.

And to slip into another metaphor, if, when the BT balloon is so close to the ground, Bland and Hampton take the opportunity to hurl out Bonfield and pull in a new CEO with a lighter head, they will find the balloon shoots up much faster. ®

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