We know BT's future strategy
You just have to follow AT&T
We always suspected that BT top bods Sir Peter Bonfield and Sir Iain Vallance wouldn't know a decent business strategy if it ran up and bit them on the arse.
That's why we were slightly confused and mildly impressed when its latest restructure plan to split the monster into two - BT Wireless and Future BT - was announced. It, well, it appeared to make good sense.
Maybe the pressure of being forced out by furious shareholders and City analysts got the two of them thinking clearly for once. But no. We can exclusively reveal that what they actually did was panic. And amid the panic they reached out and grabbed anything they could find.
In this case it was a business blueprint from its pal over the water AT&T. We haven't followed AT&T's progress all that closely (mostly because of that transatlantic thing) but imagine our surprise when we hear AT&T will spin off its wireless business as a separate company on 9 July.
That is the first part of its plan to making the telecoms behemoth more flexible and efficient. If you have an AT&T share, you'll get a third of a share in the new company called - get this - AT&T Wireless. Doesn't that sound familiar? Why, yes, it's exactly what BT has said it's going to do.
Now observing AT&T may not in itself be a bad idea. In many ways, its situation is the same as BT's - big former monopolist finding that the market is overpowering it. However, if you're going to pay directors millions of pounds a year, ought they not to come up with original ideas?
Not only that but it's looks as though BT's abject failure to actually do something when it was clear it was getting in hot water may be tied in with the fact that AT&T didn't do anything. But then AT&T didn't have to at the time.
This AT&T tracking theory may also explain why BT has manifestly failed to do anything with its joint venture with AT&T called Concert. Concert has been a disaster and is costing millions and millions of pounds every year, but with no tangible success in the market.
We remember a year ago BT not answering any questions about Concert. Perhaps we should have dug deeper because it's quite apparent now that the whole topic was off limits. When AT&T said jump Bonfield and Vallance said how high.
Things thankfully have changed. Vallance has been pulled out of the boardroom (although he couldn't be fired of course, that wouldn't be right), Bonfield is still there as CEO but is vastly diminished in influence, Brace was kicked out too.
The man to watch now is new chairman Sir Christopher Bland. We're beginning to like him more and more. We still don't think that he'll be any good after BT is back on his feet but he's been brought in to sort the telecoms giant out and by god he's doing it. BT staff are feeling nauseous - they've never moved so fast in their lives. It's off the gravy train and onto the rollercoaster.
Bland has sold off huge tracts, reducing debt. He's pushed the Yell sale - which has been in limbo for years. He's getting the company ready for split-up. He's sold off the real estate at an incredibly efficient speed. And he's made it clear, in no uncertain terms, that the Concert situation will not stand as it is for much longer. The man's a star.
It's a shame that we just sussed the AT&T trailing situation when a man with a brain got behind BT's controls. Nevertheless, we'll be keeping a much keener eye on the US company in future. ®
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