Telecomms managers do not believe BT will achieve its stated aim of penetrating the US market in a big way within a year.
Around 400 delegates listening to the keynote speech by BT's chief executive, Peter Bonfield, during the first day of the Telecommunications Managers' Association (TMA) conference, voted overwhelmingly that BT will fail in its attempts.
Seventy two per cent voting in an instant electronic poll said BT would fail, while only 24 per cent believed it could succeed despite the collapse of its proposed merger with US carrier MCI.
Bonfield looked on when delegates were asked to vote using a handheld electronic voting device wired to their seats. When the results appeared on two giant screens behind him he looked gravely disappointed, despite suggesting that BT is now free to pursue other US partners soon after the collapse of the MCI deal was announced earlier this month.
In his defence, Bonfield later said: "The simple question about whether we were right to sell our stake in MCI obviously is not the simple question that we had to ask ourselves. It was whether we were right to sell it at that sort of price, and the reason that we thought the moving ahead with MCI was the right solution - I am still convinced that it was the right solution."
The head of the UK telco did seek solace in the results of the next ballot - on whether the audience agreed BT was right to sell its 20 stake in MCI. The majority - 63 per cent - agreed BT had made the right move, while 24 per cent disagreed.
At last year's event, 86 per cent thought the BT/MCI deal was a good idea.
When Bonfield ended his speech the audience, which was made up of telecomms professionals, was asked to vote on the motion that the BT board was doing a good job. Less than half - 46 per cent - said yes, while one per cent strongly disagreed. A further 13 per cent disagreed while 24 per cent remained neutral. Bonfield was delighted that 16 per cent felt moved to tick the 'strongly agree' option. While the audience selected their favoured options Bonfield joked, "This is like a shareholders meeting".
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