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Telecoms firm BT logs profit rise, lifts dividend

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

British telecoms company BT on Friday posted rising annual profits, boosted by cost cutting and keen demand for Internet services, and flagged a rise in the dividend.

The news, published the day after BT announced a major deal to offer English Premier League football matches free to anyone paying for broadband and line rental, sent its share price rocketing to the top of the London stock market.

Pre-tax profits climbed two percent to £2.50 billion ($2.96 billion, 2.9 billion euros) in the group's financial year to the end of March, BT said in a results statement.

Revenues declined five percent to £18.253 billion, but the group lifted its shareholder dividend by 14 percent to 9.5 pence.

"In an environment where it is easier to focus only on the short-term, we are investing in our future and delivering growth in profits and dividends," said chief executive Ian Livingston in the earnings release.

"Our focus on improving efficiency across the business will allow us to continue to deliver strong financial results whilst making these investments. Our good performance this year is reflected in our dividend."

In reaction, BT's share price surged 11.46 percent to 307.3 pence in morning deals on the FTSE 100, which was 0.42 percent higher at 6,620.69 points.

The group's annual results were published one day after the company took the market by surprise by offering to show 38 Premier League football games a season free to many customers.

It has recruited a star team of presenters and former footballers, some tempted away from the BBC, to front its coverage.

The deal represents an aggressive challenge to Sky, whose shares feel six percent on the news Thursday.

"Prospects for (BT) look extremely attractive. The company continues to generate high levels of cash whilst reducing its net debt," said Richard Hunter, head of equities at Hargreaves Lansdown Stockbrokers.

He added: "On the sporting front there is no guarantee of success given the fact that BT is a newcomer to a market still dominated by Sky."

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130511/telecoms-firm-bt-logs-profit-rise-lifts-dividend