BT shares at two-year low as Orange closes on Cellnet

Click to follow
The Independent Online

British Telecom's Cellnet is in danger of losing its position as the UK's second-ranked mobile phone business to Orange after losing market share for another quarter.

British Telecom's Cellnet is in danger of losing its position as the UK's second-ranked mobile phone business to Orange after losing market share for another quarter.

As third-quarter subscriber figures were released yesterday, BT's stock fell below £7 for the first time since October 1998. The shares fell 22p to 695p.

BT Cellnet's share of UK mobile subscribers fell to 25.4 per cent at the end of September, from 26.3 per cent three months earlier, putting Orange within reach. Cellnet added 669,000 net new customers in the third quarter, the lowest number of the four UK network operators.

Third-ranked Orange, owned by France Telecom, boosted its market share at BT Cellnet's expense to 24.12 per cent from 23.5 per cent, adding 1.1 million customers. It now has 8.3 million subscribers, not far behind BT Cellnet's 8.74 million.

''By the end of the fourth quarter Orange and BT Cellnet will be neck and neck,'' said Jan-Willem Brand, an analyst at ABN Amro.

Also eating into BT Cellnet's share was fourth-ranked One2One, owned by Deutsche Telekom, which was the quarter's fastest grower. It added 1.12 million net new customers, giving it a total of 7.13 million. Vodafone, the leading mobile company with 29.75 per cent of the UK market, signed 877,000 new subscribers in the quarter and it now has 10.24 million customers.

About 3.8 million new mobile phone customers were added in the third quarter, 11 per cent more than in the previous period. There are now 34.4 million subscribers, and the equivalent of 60 per cent of the total UK population owns a mobile.

''It was an extremely good result for One2One, and the figures show the UK mobile phone market is strong,'' Mr Brand said. ''The question now is the quality of new additions.'' Vodafone, One2One and BT Cellnet did not provide breakdowns of numbers of new subscribers on pre-paid plans, which yield less revenue. Only 18.8 per cent of Orange's new customers in the third quarter were on higher-margin contract plans.

One bright spot for BT Cellnet was the sale of 245,000 Wireless Application Protocol (WAP) mobile phones in the quarter, which boosted total WAP subscribers to 420,000. The company said each WAP customer yields the company £100 more on average than voice-only customers. WAP allows mobile users to access the internet.

Comments