EE, by Gum! Orange/T-Mobile mash-up doubled its losses in 2012. Calls the result "solid commercial momentum"
Spin doctors, dontcha just love 'em? Always there to make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. According to the press release accompanying today's figures, "EE, the most advanced digital communications company in Britain"... "maintained solid commercial momentum"... "improved its customer value mix" ... and "successfully introduced the EE brand"... whilst "being ahead and ahead of schedule on 4G rollout."
Meanwhile, the figures themselves actually show that EE service revenue were down 2.6 per cent year-on-year. In another feeble attempt at spin, the company says that the figure would actually have been PLUS 2.7 per cent were it not that the regulator intervening to cut prices. This is exactly the same cock-eyed logic as that shown in the Victorian music hall song which claims that "Wiv a ladder and some glasses, you could see to 'Ackney Marshes, if it wasn't for the 'ouses in between."
EE makes much of the fact that 52 per cent of its subscriber base is on post-pay contracts and that 94 per cent of those have smartphones. Well, you'd expect that wouldn't you? After all EE's much -vaunted USP is that it provides what it likes to call '4G services" and you need smartphones for that.
EE says its net ‘pay monthly’ subscriber roll was up by 752,000 over 2012 but that is 15 per cent less than the company's 2011 figures.
As is usual with presentations of results the devil is in the detail and the reality can best be discerned by ignoring the spin and concentrating on what is missing, lost in the the smoky fug of PR guff.
So, let's begin with that famous 4G. EE simply failed to provide any numbers or other guidance as to the actual numbers of punters who have signed up. According to the EE spinmeisters this is because to release such sensitive information could have an impact on the UK's latest spectrum auction which, trundling endlessly along in the background, is a grand excuse for obfuscation.
In the absence of solid data, it is probably wise to take claims such as the achievement of "solid early 4G momentum" with a large pinch of salt. EE's rivals have been massively exercised and angry about the fact that the UK regulator allowed EE "first mover" advantage in the 4G when it granted the company an early de facto monopoly in the market. EE crowed a lot but the noise doesn't seem to have signified anything much and here's certainly no sign of a glint of a golden egg being incubated. Indeed, informed rumours have it that '4G" uptake is patchy and partial - a bit like EE's 4G network.
The report shows that “early Orange and T-Mobile customers migrating to 4G on EE are showing increases of approximately 10 per cent in ARPU”. What that means is that LTE is a premium service that costs more than 3G and there is increasing evidence that consumers , having tried LTE services and been stung in the pocket for so doing, are deciding to stick with 3G until 4G prices drop. Meanwhile, shareholders want prices to rise.
And lurking there in the distance is an IPO. Good luck with that.