BT scraps dividend until March 2021, IAG sitting on €10bn cash

Equities

Another one bites the dust – BT Group has become the latest casualty in the massacre of FTSE dividends. Management have taken the axe to this year’s final dividend and all next year’s pay outs.

I’ve been arguing they ought to have done this sooner in order to free up capital for infrastructure investment and right the wobbling balance sheet. Net debt stands at nearly £18bn, ballooning from £11bn a year ago, though management say this is largely down to the implementation of IFRS 16.

Another headache for BT has been confirmed – the O2 and Virgin Media deal is going ahead. Whether or not you agree that companies ought to be prioritising investment or survival over shareholder returns, the income investor is not going to find life easy for the next 18 months. Investors ran for the hills – already-pressured shares opened 11% lower.

IAG – €535m operating loss before exceptional items in the first quarter but by far the worst is to come with demand collapsing. It booked an exceptional charge in the quarter of €1.325bn on derecognition of fuel and foreign exchange hedges for 2020. This swung reported losses to €1.683bn.

IAG at least seems to be able to ride out the storm: management are touting €10bn of cash and undrawn liquidity facilities going into the headroom.

Against this they have reduced weekly cash operating costs to €200m from €440m and reduced capex this year by €1.2bn. It won’t need to take delivery of new aircraft if it’s not flying. IAG expects to be running at best at 50% from July but won’t be back to 2019 levels of demand until 2023 at the earliest.