UK mobe network Three's profits hit by IT upgrade costs

Oh, and billionaire owner Li Ka-shing retires

Three store maidenhead

Mobile operator Three UK reported a fall in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA)* of 2 per cent to £437m for its full-year results – largely due to an IT and network upgrade.

Sales went up 7 per cent to £2.4bn for the 12 months ended 31 December 2017 (PDF).

Capital expenditure rose 30 per cent in Blighty to £459m due to investment in new IT: Three's core network and data centres intended to improve customer speeds and security.

Dave Dyson, chief exec of Three UK, said the firm's "digital transformation" programme "will significantly enhance customer experience, employee experience and cost efficiency. Investment in spectrum, next generation network and IT underpins the opportunity to deliver improved results over the long term."

Three also said monthly mobile broadband data usage rose 7 per cent per customer during 2017 to 6.8GB and that it had closed off 2017 with a total of 10 million active customers.

Three's parent, CK Hutchison Holdings' UK arm completed its acquisition of UK Broadband Limited in May for £250m - a buy that will boost its spectrum share.

Three is something of a minnow compared to BT/EE and Vodafone, which respectively hold 42 and 29 per cent of immediately usable UK mobile spectrum. In contrast Three owns 15 per cent, and O2 some 14 per cent.

A recent blow to Three saw it close a final legal challenge to force Ofcom to change the bidding rules over the upcoming spectrum auction.

It called for a 30 per cent cap on the amount of mobile spectrum a British company could own, but Ofcom set the limit at 37 per cent.

Hutch (warning, PDF, 186 pages) reported a 6 per cent rise in annual profit to HK$35.1bn (£3.2bn). The firm's chairman, and Hong Kong's richest man, Li Ka-shing, also announced he would step down.

* Yeah, we know, we hate reporting EBITDA numbers too because they don't include the costs that help to provide a more accurate picture of the profit that a business actually made. Sadly, this was the only number Three provided for its UK ops. ®

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