British Telecom, the virtual monopoly that presides over the UK’s national telephone network, managed just 2% sales growth during its third quarter to September 30.

But in contrast with the lacklustre sales showing, BT exceeded investors’ expectations with a sparkling profits performance at £489 million ($777.31m; €767.26m), compared to a year-on-year loss of £1.35 billion – thanks to debt-reduction and cost-cutting.

After exceptionals and goodwill, profits grew 55% to £496 million, while earnings per share increased 54% to £0.037. The markets were further cheered by a £0.0225p interim dividend

Against this bullish background, BT made a bearish retreat from its rose-coloured predictions of sales growth over the next three years. Blaming “market conditions” new(ish) ceo Ben Verwaayen, who seven months back rashly forecast annual growth of between six to eight per cent, backtracked faster than a politician’s promise: “We won’t make that mistake again”, he said.

He declined to offer any new clairvoyance. But on the basis that a nod’s as good as a wink to a blind horse, Verwaayen implied that 6%-8% sales growth is still the ultimate internal target.

Data sourced from: Times Online (UK); additional content by WARC staff