The 2013 Outlook For BT

Published in Company Comment on 31 December 2012

What's in store for BT's (LSE: BT.) shareholders in the year ahead?

In this festive mini-series, we look at the 2013 prospects for some of your favourite FTSE 100 (UKX) shares. Today, it's the turn of BT Group (LSE: BT-A) (NYSE: BT.US).

BT's shares have gained a very healthy 25% during the course of 2012 compared with a 6% rise for the Footsie. As you might expect from the uplift in BT's shares, newsflow during the course of 2012 has been good.

In March, BT told us how it was going to deal with its £4 billion pension deficit. The company said it would make an immediate £2 billion lump-sum payment, followed by nine yearly payments of £325 million from March 2013 to March 2021. The market liked the news.

In June, BT announced it had secured live rights to a quarter of the football Premier League matches -- half of the 'best' matches according to the chief executive -- to be shown in the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons. This was followed in September by the announcement of a live rights deal with Premiership Rugby over a four-year period. The sports deals look like a good move as consumers increasingly want to buy their broadband and entertainment services from a single provider.

In its half-year results announced in November, BT said it would again be accelerating the roll-out of its high-speed fibre-optic network. The company now expects fibre to be available to two-thirds of UK premises by the spring of 2014, more than 18 months ahead of the original schedule.

In the same month, BT launched the world's first ever trial of a 10Gbps 'hyper-fast' broadband network in a live working environment. While there are no current plans to deploy the technology, the company says it demonstrates its determination to be at the cutting edge of developments in the coming decades.

Among the good news of 2012, there was a negative in the shape of the performance of BT's Global Services division, which was "impacted by the tough conditions in Europe and the financial services sector". However, the group announced the appointment of a new CEO for the division from 1 October, so performance in this department in 2013 is something shareholders should keep an eye on.

Overall, BT has made good progress in 2012 but, after the strong rise in the share price, how does the valuation look now and have the shares got further to go in 2013?

At a recent price of 238p, BT is on a modest price-to-earnings (P/E) ratio of 9.5 for the year to March 2013. The P/E is also 9.5 for the following year, if analyst forecasts of flat revenue and earnings prove accurate. Meanwhile, the dividend is forecast to advance, giving a yield that rises from 4% to 4.5%, more than twice covered by earnings.

BT's rating looks reasonably attractive, but with the uninspiring analyst forecasts through to March 2014, newsflow would need to very good indeed in 2013 for the company's shares to come close to reproducing the gain of 2012.

One top investor who holds shares in BT is City wizard Neil Woodford. Woodford has trounced the market over the past 15 years by focusing on strong cash-generating and dividend-paying companies.

If you're interested in learning more about this master investor's enormously successful strategy -- and about the other blue-chip companies he currently favours -- I recommend you download the Motley Fool's exclusive report, "8 Shares Held By Britain's Super Investor".

This report is free to private investors for a limited time only, but it can be in your inbox in seconds: simply click here.

> G A Chester does not hold shares in BT.

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The opinions expressed here are those of the individual writers and are not representative of The Motley Fool. If you spot any comments that are unsuitable hit the flag to alert our moderators.

jadeplant 03 Jan 2013 , 10:18am

Can I suggest the Fool uses layout to separate the relatively factual content of the article from the sycophantic advertising of Neil Woodford?

The article should end with a clear conclusion rather than veering off at a tangent.

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