TalkTalk

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  • July 24, 2019

    TalkTalk UK Q1 2019/20 results: Slower but steadier

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    TalkTalk suffered subscriber losses and falling consumer revenue growth in Q1, with churn still high despite the high speed base growing, countered by ARPU growing for the first time since 2017. The subscriber drop was, however, modest and looks quite deliberate, with there being evidence of price firming in both direct and indirect channels supporting both ARPU and margin. This more cautious approach, if it can be sustained, puts the company on a much more healthy footing in our view, allowing it to achieve its financial targets without increasingly unsustainable existing customer price rises
  • June 18, 2019

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q1 2019: Price wars dom [...]

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    Market revenue growth dipped to around zero in Q1, with fierce competition on new customer pricing the major factor. All four of the big operators now suffer from declining ARPU, with existing customer price rises increasingly hard to land given falling prices for new customers. The rapid move to superfast is not helping as much as it should; the operators will hope that they fare better with the move to ultrafast.
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  • June 3, 2019

    TalkTalk UK: a welcome slowdown?

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    TalkTalk hit the bottom end of its (revised) 2018/19 EBITDA guidance, an achievement given fierce price competition and the margin-dilutive effect of high speed upgrades. This is however helped by one-off Openreach price cuts, and price rises for ancillary products (voice calls and pay-TV) and out-of-contract customers that look hard to sustain. Subscriber growth slowed dramatically in Q4, and continuing this more measured approach could help the company counter multiple market pressures, and perhaps even lead to a détente in the current price wars
  • April 2, 2019

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q4 2018

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    Market revenue growth accelerated to 3% in Q4, but it might never reach this level again, being helped by a never-to-be-repeated BT overlapping price rise. With price rises becoming more challenging in general, and superfast pricing under pressure in particular, maintaining/increasing ARPUs is becoming more difficult despite superfast volumes surging. Openreach’s ultrafast roll-out has accelerated, challenging Virgin Media and bringing the prospect of further price premia, but perhaps too late to be of significant benefit in 2019.
  • March 20, 2019

    Virgin Media UK: proceeding with caution as speed advantage comes [...]

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    After strong underlying 2018 results, the more subdued outlook for 2019 is an important shift, driven by regulatory pressure on mobile, higher programming costs, one-offs and softening demand. Lightning is continuing to drive market share gains in new build areas, and should provide a 2ppt tailwind to revenue growth in 2019, but enhanced visibility on the economics of rollout suggests that its conservative approach is a wise one. In existing build areas, Virgin Media is facing-off pricing pressure from TalkTalk on high speed, and potentially from BT on even higher ultrafast speeds, with it moderating pricing and launching a market-beating 500Mbps product in Spring 2019 in response.
  • February 12, 2019

    Wobbles ahead for TalkTalk’s fine balancing act

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    TalkTalk is delivering on its subscriber and revenue growth targets but is straining to get there. Price rises such as a £4 ‘TV access fee’ look increasingly risky. Whilst migrating to discounted high-speed helps to deliver top-line growth, margins are c. 40% lower; an unwelcome dent to already negative cashflow and stressed leverage. Both TalkTalk’s focus on revenue growth in a tight market and fibre rollout plans look increasingly unaffordable; a more modest ambition of stable revenues might allow a healthier business model to unfold.
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  • European mobile in Q4 2016
    European mobile in Q4 2016
    January 10, 2019

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q3 2018

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    Broadband market volume growth resumed its downward trend in the September quarter after a blip in the previous quarter that was likely caused by a wholesale transfer distorting the figures. Revenue growth, however, perked up to 1.9% from 1.7% in the previous quarter, an encouraging recovery especially given that it was not primarily driven by the timing of a price increase. ARPU growth improved across all four of the major operators, countering recent trends, with a focus on higher value offerings a common theme. High speed broadband adoption accelerated in the quarter across most operators, encouraged by Openreach’s volume discount offer, although this was partially driven by keener high speed pricing. Revenue growth at Virgin Media, Sky and TalkTalk converged at around 3%, with BT Consumer lagging at -1%. However, excluding the effect of BT’s shrinking telephony-only base and smoothing the sporadic boost of its 9-monthly price rise, BT Consumer’s revenue is in the middle of the pack at 3.0%      
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  • December 5, 2018

    TalkTalk stabilising, but strong growth evasive

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    TalkTalk had very solid Q2 and H1 results, with broadband net adds staying positive, high speed net adds accelerating, revenue growth above 3% and EBITDA rebounding back to growth. This was helped at the revenue line by a price increase in the quarter and in EBITDA terms by steep Openreach price reductions, with strong revenue growth and any EBITDA growth hard to replicate once these effects have annualised out. The company has nonetheless stabilised its subscriber base, revenue and profitability after some erratic years, with cost-cutting providing some potential for growth going forward.
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  • September 17, 2018

    UK Broadcast TV is growing very old, very quickly

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    UK mobile market service revenue grew by 1.7% in Q2, up from 1.3% in the previous quarter, a disappointing result in the context of boosts from both IFRS 15 accounting and the annual price rises in the quarter. O2 was the star performer this quarter, with its service revenue growth leaping ahead to claim the top spot. BT/EE’s service revenue growth declined on an underlying basis, with weak contract net adds over the last six months catching up with it, and H3G and Vodafone were slightly improved and steady respectively excluding some one-off effects. Next quarter, the impact from the EU roaming cuts will annualise out, providing a substantial fillip to all operators. Ceteris paribus, this would put market growth in the vicinity of 4%, a figure not reached for years.
  • September 11, 2018

    UK mobile market Q2 2018: Disappointment before dawn

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    UK mobile market service revenue grew by 1.7% in Q2, up from 1.3% in the previous quarter, a disappointing result in the context of boosts from both IFRS 15 accounting and the annual price rises in the quarter. O2 was the star performer this quarter, with its service revenue growth leaping ahead to claim the top spot. BT/EE’s service revenue growth declined on an underlying basis, with weak contract net adds over the last six months catching up with it, and H3G and Vodafone were slightly improved and steady respectively excluding some one-off effects. Next quarter, the impact from the EU roaming cuts will annualise out, providing a substantial fillip to all operators. Ceteris paribus, this would put market growth in the vicinity of 4%, a figure not reached for years.
  • August 29, 2018

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q2 2018: Great volume, [...]

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    The UK broadband subscription market re-accelerated in the June quarter, bucking a consistent downwards trend that has been established for over three years, with line rental and pay TV subscriptions also accelerating having both also experienced a more general downwards shift over the last few years. The broadband acceleration may be short-lived, with line rental only a little more sustainable. Pay TV is perhaps the most robust recovery given that the over-the-top new entrants (primarily Netflix and Amazon) are now firmly establishing themselves as add-ons not substitutes.Revenue growth however took a more familiar path, dipping to 1.6% from 2.8% in  the previous quarter, as BT’s overlapping price increase predictably dropped out, partially mitigated by an improvement in ARPU growth at TalkTalk caused by an improved (i.e. slightly less damaging) mix effect.  
  • July 20, 2018

    Focus back on ARPU: TalkTalk Group Q1 2018/19 results

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    TalkTalk had another strong quarter for broadband net adds, adding 80k versus its full year target of 150k+. All of this was due to strong wholesale, with retail net adds slightly negative, although in the market and seasonal context even this retail performance is quite respectable. On-net revenue growth improved strongly to around 4%, with its ARPU decline moderating to 2%, and ARPU should be helped further by price increases for existing and new customers alike in July. TalkTalk therefore looks well placed to hit full year targets, albeit with considerable help from its wholesale customers and some aggressive price increases. The focus back onto ARPU and away from (expensively) chasing retail subscriber growth is nonetheless to be applauded.  
  • TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    TV platform forecasts to 2026: DTT and pay-lite set to grow
    July 13, 2018

    UK TV platform forecasts to 2022: stability rules

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    Despite significant changes in people’s video viewing habits over the last few years, the TV platform landscape has appeared to reach an equilibrium. We expect pay-TV to retain its utility status for most existing customers. At the margins, movement from Sky and Virgin Media to free-to-air or pay-lite services will be mitigated by population growth. The excitable growth phases for Netflix and Amazon are likely to be over, but they have carved out prominent positions in the market. Meanwhile, the uncomplicated allure of free TV remains strong for half the UK.
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  • June 25, 2018

    Hitting targets, but pushing too hard? TalkTalk Group Q4 2017/18 [...]

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    TalkTalk hit both its subscriber and EBITDA targets for 2017/18, but Q4 contained some worrying trends including core consumer revenue in decline despite strong subscriber growth, with strong business revenue growth compensating. It held fast on guidance for 2018/19, although the 15% target underlying EBITDA growth is largely driven by regulated cost cuts, and revenue growth may be (again) achieved through the business side, which will be purely wholesale following the sale of its direct business customer base. Having spent the last few years not growing retail subscribers enough in a growing market, TalkTalk is now perhaps trying to grow too fast in a mature market, putting pressure on its ARPU from new and existing customers alike.  
  • June 14, 2018

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q1 2018: Diverging stra [...]

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    UK residential communications market revenue growth strengthened in Q1, but this was entirely driven by an overlapping price increase from BT, and the decline in market volume growth continues. Continued pressure on both subscriber volume growth and ARPU has led to diverging strategies, with most operators focused on sustaining ARPU, but TalkTalk chasing volumes at the low end, with the former approach currently proving more successful. Looking forward, the benefit of BT’s price rise will fall away completely next quarter and market revenue growth will likely resume its downward trend, but the nadir may be within sight if the flight to quality persists at most operators  
  • European mobile in Q4 2016
    European mobile in Q4 2016
    May 9, 2018

    European privacy: New Wave in the Old World

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    For much of the online media industry, GDPR compliance has stalled at basic data audits and box ticking, as firms wait for the rest of the privacy regime to emerge. But weighing technicalities of legitimate interest and consent misses the point: transparent consumer value will be the only sustainable basis for processing personal data. The scrutiny of Google and Facebook privacy practices involves an added antitrust dimension, potentially leading to processing limits as remedies.  
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  • March 2, 2018

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q4 2017

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    UK residential communications market revenue growth fell again to 1.2%, with weakening ARPU growth the main driver. New customer pricing remains flat to down, and existing customers are being increasingly discounted, fuelling the ARPU weakness. High speed broadband adoption is proceeding apace, but the high speed premium is fairly thin, muting the impact on ARPU. Regulated wholesale price cuts from Openreach finalised today and due in April 2018 will not help. Looking forward, the March quarter will benefit from price timing effects at BT and Virgin Media, but we fear that the rest of 2018 will follow the current downward trend and the operators will need to adjust to an ex-growth environment.
  • December 11, 2017

    UK mobile market Q3 2017

    Mobile service revenue growth dipped this quarter but this was likely entirely due to the predictable (and predicted) impact of the abolition of EU roaming surcharges.  On an underlying basis, growth improved. BT/EE extended its lead in both service revenue and contract subscriber growth terms. EE’s substantial investments in network quality and customer service have driven returns to scale, and its multi-brand approach is working well. Contrasting with the returns to scale seen at EE, TalkTalk’s MVNO has suffered the reverse of this, unable to break-even despite peaking at just shy of 1 million customers, and deciding to retreat to an agency model.  Sky Mobile is performing respectably well in context, but may be headed for scale issues itself.
  • October 4, 2017

    UK Mobile Market Q2 2017

    Mobile service revenue growth continued to improve on a reported basis, rising to 1.1% from 0.3% in the March quarter, but most of this improvement came from a significant dip in the MTR cut drag, with underlying growth improving by a much more modest 0.2ppts. The quarter also benefited from the current round of in-contract price increases, which were more widespread and at a higher level than last year, and also from a brief holiday in the impact of roaming cut regulation, with the full abolition of retail charges only being implemented on 15 June, too late to have a major impact in the current quarter. Looking forward, the roaming regulation holiday will end with a jolt in the September quarter, with a full three months of zero retail roaming charges coinciding with the main holiday season for mobile consumers, which could impact market growth by up to 2ppts by our (tentative) estimates
  • September 1, 2017

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q2 2017:Dead cat bounce [...]

    UK residential communications market revenue growth bounced up to 3.6% in Q2, a full 1.4ppt improvement on the previous quarter and reversing the downwards trend of the previous two quarters. However, this was entirely driven by price rises at BT and Sky, with the ongoing market volume growth decline continuing at pace. In competitive terms, TalkTalk was the only operator able to improve its broadband net adds on a year earlier, and Virgin Media was solid with only a modest decline, leaving BT and Sky shouldering the worst of the slowdown, albeit with neither company doing particularly poorly given the market context. New customer pricing remains tight, with Virgin Media in particular becoming more competitive. Looking forward, we expect volumes to continue to slow, and for the pricing boost enjoyed in Q2 to largely drop out next quarter, leading to a renewed revenue growth slowdown.
  • July 26, 2017

    TalkTalk Group Q1 2017/18 results: Still growing the base

    TalkTalk sustained positive broadband net adds in the June quarter, adding 20k to its base, largely driven by reduced churn, which was largely driven by re-contracting a large proportion of existing customers onto its new cheaper bundles. Unfortunately, this had a negative effect on revenue growth, with Group revenue growth (ex-carrier) dropping to -3.2%, as the new cheaper bundle adoption diluted ARPU, but the company remains confident that revenue growth will turn positive for the full financial year as the ARPU dilution effect annualises out. The company recently announced a price rise due in August of around 5-6% for customers not on its new cheaper bundles (around 38% of its total broadband base), which will help with the ARPU turnaround, but may make maintaining positive broadband net adds more challenging
  • June 27, 2017

    UK broadband, telephony and pay TV trends Q1 2017: Profit warning [...]

    UK residential communications market revenue growth dipped modestly to 2.7% in Q1, from 3.3% in the previous quarter. This was mainly driven by ARPU weakness arising due to the timings of Sky and Virgin Media’s price rises, but weakness also stemmed from the sustained decline in broadband volume growth and continued new customer price competition.Looking forward, the implementation of an overlapping price increase from BT, as well as Sky’s price increases coming into full effect, should boost market revenues by around 1ppt in Q2 2017, but this will drop away again by Q3. The churn fallout from the communication of these price increases should also dissipate in Q2, benefiting BT and Sky competitively, and making it challenging for TalkTalk to repeat the feat of recovering to positive retail broadband net adds

  • June 10, 2017

    BT Q4 2016/17 results: Mobile strength, pressure elsewhere

    BT had a reasonable quarter in its consumer broadband business given market pressures, and a very strong one at EE with continued growth acceleration. It had a good quarter for fibre adoption as well, helping its wholesale divisions stabilise their revenue, but business/IT was weak as expected.Regulatory pressure remains intense despite the (welcome) Openreach agreement, with price cap regulation proposed or due on a range of products, and a regulatory approach which is far from investment-orientated. Pressures in the business/IT market are likely to continue, and pressures in the consumer broadband market are likely to intensify, justifying BT’s current cautious approach to guidance and dividends.

  • May 22, 2017

    TalkTalk Group Q4 2016/17 results: Rebasing profits for growth

    TalkTalk managed to return to retail on-net broadband subscriber growth in the March quarter after years of decline, but at the expense of missing their EBITDA target for the year. They have stated a determination to grow the base going forward, but have admitted that this requires a rebasing of their EBITDA to spend the necessary amount on marketing, and guided to an EBITDA drop in the 2017/18 year. This looks much more realistic than their previous plans, but will in itself generate even more competitive intensity in the UK broadband market, which is already squeezed given the market volume slowdown and Virgin Media network extension.