Soaring prospects for future of Asia Pacific help BT ride to 1325p

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The Independent Online
BRITISH TELECOM shares soared 5.3 per cent yesterday to 1325p, an all-time high, after the company gave a bullish assessment of its prospects in the Asia-Pacific region.

Robert Brace, the finance director, forecast a fivefold increase over five years in the market capitalisation of Japan Telecom, in which BT and global partner AT&T hold a joint 30 per cent stake. Japan Telecom has a current market value of nearly pounds 11bn.

BT said its share of revenue would jump to pounds 1bn for the year to March from a string of Asia-Pacific ventures, which unite key telecoms hubs from Japan to Australasia, crossing through Hong Kong, South Korea and India. In the 6 months to September 1999, BT's share of the Asia Pacific investments' sales amounted to pounds 300m, and its share of losses was pounds 13m.

BT has invested pounds 2bn in the region - most of it in the last 15 months - and serves 30 million customers, including 12 million mobile customers, one million Internet customers and 17 million data and voice customers. BT estimates it has about a 3.5 per cent share of the pounds 110bn market, which its expects to grow to pounds 200bn by 2004.

Alfred Mockett, chief executive of BT Worldwide, indicated that BT could increase its stake in Japan Telecom. He said BT "will buy up if we have the opportunity to do so".

Mr Mockett also expressed enthusiasm for the Chinese market after meeting the Chinese president Jiang Zemin. "We are very encouraged by the role they see for international operators," he said

BT says it is taking a pragmatic approach to building its Asia Pacific ventures. Its aim is to secure access to infrastructure and a customer base, while ensuring the partner has the financial capability to continue investing.