KCOM boss defends Hull 'monopoly' claim as company profits rise

By Hull Daily Mail | Posted: 5 Jun 2018

The chief executive of KCOM has stood firm on the broadband monopoly debate in Hull as the company announced a strong year in the region.

Revenue for KCOM in Hull and East Yorkshire was up two per cent for the year ending March 31, 2018, as the provider also saw profits before tax rise from £30.5m to £34m.

Bill Halbert, CEO of KCOM, told the Mail the door remains open for other providers to invest in Hull, but said a lack of willing to do so meant the company was left exposed to criticism of holding a monopoly.

Bill Halbert, CEO of KCOM

“It is all about whether other people are willing to invest to come into the city,” Mr Halbert said.

“They are not willing to do that, and that is not our choice. It puts us in a difficult position because we regularly hear the criticism that there is a monopoly, but that is simply because of the back drop.”

Profits for KCOM are above expectations, despite a lower revenue across the whole company.

The overall drop in revenue is down to a lower government spend, and the fact KCOM has cut ties with a number of software contracts, the company has said.

Despite the fall in revenue, EPITDA (earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization) rose from £67.6m to £68.3m.

KCOM has also committed to delivering a 6p per share dividend for the rest of the financial year, which Mr Halbert said was a sign of confidence from the broadband provider.

Speaking about the criticism KCOM receives from some of its customers over broadband speeds, the CEO said: “Frustrated customers write letters, and what we find is the complaints we receive are from customers who are using our copper-based services, not our fibre services.

We have invested £80m in our new fibre high-speed services, which by March 2019 will be rolled out across the city.

“The current take-up of our fibre services from customers is over 40 per cent, so the next phase once the roll-out is completed will be to try and get that figure to 100 per cent.

“We also have the potential to introduce more advanced capabilities, in sectors such as healthcare, and we want to introduce more customised package options and upgrades for our customers.”

KCOM’s net debt rose from £42.4m to £62.6m in the last financial year, which the company says reflects their capital investment, including the fibre roll-out.

The CEO said the company’s dividend commitment made them attractive to investors.

He also said the unexpected General Election last year – and subsequent Purdah regulations – had seen the company suffer a significant decline in the first part of the year due to expected projects not being carried out.

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Source article: http://www.hulldailymail.co.uk/

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