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Telefónica weathers COVID-19 storm (so far at least)

José María Álvarez-Pallete, Telefónica's CEO, reckoned the Spanish giant's Q1 results were pretty solid (all things considered).

"Telefónica is not immune to this crisis, but it is resilient," he said. "Our four key markets have performed well in a unique and challenging environment. Lower revenues from roaming, prepaid and business customers were partially compensated by lower commercial costs and lower customer churn."

The razzmatazz of the Liberty Global tie-up in the UK might be grabbing most of the headlines, but Telefónica's shareholders were no doubt quietly pleased there was no dividend cut.

Just as encouragingly, net debt was down about 5% compared with March 31, 2019 – but it's still a heavy dollop of red ink, at around €38.2 billion (US$41.2 billion) as of end of March.

More worryingly, net income fell from €926 million ($999 million) in Q1 2019 to €406 million ($438 million). By wiping off exceptional items, though, Telefónica said net income would have been €619 million ($668 million).

For his part, Álvarez-Pallete maintained that the coronavirus pandemic had "limited impact" on financials during the first three months of the year.

Where Telefónica has clearly been affected is on financial guidance. Like many other telcos, it has given up on trying to provide a detailed and full-year picture for 2020.

Telefónica did venture to say that in the "current context" the 2020 outlook for operating income before depreciation and amortization (OIBDA) minus capex will be "slightly negative to flat year-on-year" in organic terms (when you strip out variables like currency fluctuations).

As for the mid-term, Telefónica reiterated 2022 guidance of revenue growth and two percentage points improvement in (OIBDA minus capex) revenues.

Q1 turnover was €11.37 billion ($12.26 billion), which was a 5.1% year-on-year drop from the same quarter last year. In organic terms, Q1 revenue declined a more modest 1.3%.

Revenue in Germany and the UK, again in organic terms, remained stable with respective growth of 3.8% and 1.5%. On its home turf in Spain, Q1 revenue was down 1.6% year-on-year.

— Ken Wieland, contributing editor, special to Light Reading

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