IFRS 15, revenue policies, certain disclosures paras 110-128, telecoms

BT Group plc – Annual report – 31 March 2021

Industry: telecoms

5. Revenue

Significant accounting policies that apply to revenue

Revenue from contracts with customers in scope of IFRS 15

Most revenue recognised by the group (excluding Openreach where most revenue is recognised under the scope of IFRS 16) is in scope of IFRS 15 and is subject to the following revenue recognition policy.

On inception of the contract we identify a “performance obligation” for each of the distinct goods or services we have promised to provide to the customer. The consideration specified in the contract with the customer is allocated to each performance obligation identified based on their relative standalone selling prices, and is recognised as revenue as they are satisfied.

The table below summarises the performance obligations we have identified for our major service lines and provides information on the timing of when they are satisfied and the related revenue recognition policy. Also detailed in this note is revenue expected to be recognised in future periods for contracts in place at 31 March 2021 that contain unsatisfied performance obligations.

We recognise revenue based on the relative standalone selling price of each performance obligation. Determining the standalone selling price often requires judgement and may be derived from regulated prices, list prices, a cost-plus derived price, or the price of similar products when sold on a standalone basis by BT or a competitor. In some cases it may be appropriate to use the contract price when this represents a bespoke price that would be the same for a similar customer in a similar circumstance.

The fixed access and mobile subscription arrangements sold by our Consumer business is typically payable in advance, with any variable or one-off charges billed in arrears. Payment is received immediately for direct sales of equipment to customers. Where equipment is provided to customers under mobile and fixed access subscription arrangements, payment for the equipment is received over the course of the contract term. For sales by our enterprise businesses, invoices are issued in line with contractual terms. Payments received in advance are recognised as contract liabilities, amounts billed in arrears are recognised as contract assets.

Variable consideration arising from contracts where services have been performed but customer acceptance has not yet been received are not recognised until it is highly probable that a significant reversal of revenue recognised will not occur.

We are applying the practical expedient to recognise revenue “as-invoiced” for certain fixed access and mobile subscription services revenues. Where we have a right to invoice at an amount that directly corresponds with performance to date, we recognise revenue at that amount. We have also adopted the practical expedient not to calculate the aggregate amount of the transaction price allocated to the performance obligations that are unsatisfied for these contracts.

We do not have any material obligations in respect of returns, refunds or warranties. Where we act as an agent in a transaction, such as insurance services offered, we recognise commission net of directly attributable costs. Where the actual and estimated costs to completion of the contract exceed the estimated revenue, a loss is recognised immediately.

We exercise judgement in assessing whether the initial set-up, transition and transformation phases of long-term contracts are distinct from the other services to be delivered under the contract and therefore represent distinct performance obligations. This determines whether revenue is recognised in the early stages of the contract, or deferred until delivery of the other services promised in the contract begins.

We recognise immediately the entire estimated loss for a contract when we have evidence that the contract is unprofitable. If these estimates indicate that any contract will be less profitable than previously forecast, contract assets may have to be written down to the extent they are no longer considered to be fully recoverable. We perform ongoing profitability reviews of our contracts in order to determine whether the latest estimates are appropriate. Key factors reviewed include:

  • Transaction volumes or other inputs affecting future revenues which can vary depending on customer requirements, plans, market position and other factors such as general economic conditions.
  • Our ability to achieve key contract milestones connected with the transition, development, transformation and deployment phases for customer contracts.
  • The status of commercial relations with customers and the implications for future revenue and cost projections.
  • Our estimates of future staff and third-party costs and the degree to which cost savings and efficiencies are deliverable.

Revenue from lease arrangements in scope of IFRS 16

Some consumer broadband and TV products and arrangements to provide external communications providers with exclusive use of fixed-network telecommunications infrastructure meet the definition of operating leases under IFRS 16.

At inception of a contract, we determine whether the contact is, or contains a lease following the accounting policy set out in note 15. Arrangements meeting the definition of a lease in which we act as lessor are classified as operating or finance leases at lease inception based on an overall assessment of whether the lease transfers substantially all the risks and rewards incidental to ownership of the underlying asset. If this is the case then the lease is a finance lease; if not, it is an operating lease. For sub-leases, we make this assessment by reference to the characteristics of the right-of-use asset associated with the head lease rather than the underlying leased asset.

Income from arrangements classified as operating leases is presented as revenue where it relates to our core operating activities, for example leases of fixed-line telecommunications infrastructure to external communications providers and leases of devices to consumer customers as part of fixed access subscription products. Operating lease income from other arrangements is presented within other operating income (note 6).

We recognise operating lease payments as income on a straight-line basis over the lease term. Any upfront payments received, such as connection fees, are deferred over the lease term. Determining the lease term is subject to the significant judgements set out in note 15.

Where the contract contains both lease and non-lease components, the transaction price is allocated between the components on the basis of relative stand-alone selling price.

Where an arrangement is assessed as a finance lease we derecognise the underlying asset and recognise a receivable equivalent to the net investment in the lease. The receivable is measured based on future payments to be received discounted using the interest rate implicit in the lease, adjusted for any direct costs. Any difference between the derecognised asset and the finance lease receivable is recognised in the income statement. Where the nature of services delivered relates to our core operating activities it is presented as revenue. Where it relates to non-core activities it is presented within other operating income (note 6).

Disaggregation of external revenue

The following table disaggregates external revenue by our major service lines and by reportable segment.

a Following a review of a number of products, we have re-presented the classifications within Enterprise in the 2019/20 comparative. We have also transferred £28m of revenue from Enterprise to Other due to the Ventures reorganisation. Refer to note 1 for further details.

b Relates to regulatory matters classified as specific. See note 9.

Revenue expected to be recognised in future periods for performance obligations that are not complete (or are partially complete) as at 31 March 2021 is £13,317m (2019/20: restated £14,248m). Of this, £7,415m (2019/20: £8,191m) relates to ICT and managed services contracts and equipment and other services which will substantially be recognised as revenue within three years. Fixed access and mobile subscription services typically have shorter contract periods and so £5,902m (2019/20: restated £6,057m) will substantially be recognised as revenue within two years.

Revenue recognised this year relating to performance obligations that were satisfied, or partially satisfied, in previous years was not material. Revenue related to customers’ unexercised rights (for example, unused amounts on prepaid SIM cards) was not material.

Lease income

Presented within revenue is £2,496m (2019/20: £2,297m) income from arrangements classified as operating leases under IFRS 16 and which represent core business activities for the group. Income relates predominantly to Openreach’s leases of fixed-line telecommunications infrastructure to external communications providers, classified as fixed access subscription revenue in the table above, and leases of devices to Consumer customers as part of fixed access subscription offerings, classified as equipment and other services.

During the year we also recognised £36m (2019/20: £41m) operating lease income from non-core business activities which is presented in other operating income (note 6). This income relates primarily to sub-leases of unutilised properties.

Note 15 presents an analysis of payments to be received across the remaining term of operating lease arrangements.

During the year we renegotiated a non-strategic revenue contract delivered using elements of our leased buildings infrastructure, in exchange for an up-front payment of £196m. The revised arrangement, previously classified as an operating sub-lease, was reassessed as a finance sub-lease in line with the accounting policy set out above. We derecognised the £208m carrying amount of the associated right-of-use asset and a net deferred income balance of £33m previously reported within trade and other payables, and recognised in revenue a gain on disposal of £21m, consistent with the presentation of the previous operating lease income. No further amounts are due, therefore no finance lease receivable was recognised.

Contract assets and liabilities

Significant accounting policies that apply to contract assets and liabilities

We recognise contract assets for goods and services for which control has transferred to the customer before consideration is due. These assets mainly relate to mobile handsets provided upfront but paid for over the course of a contract. Contract assets are reclassified as receivables when the right to payment becomes unconditional and we have billed the customer.

Contract liabilities are recognised when we have received advance payment for goods and services that we have not transferred to the customer. These primarily relate to fees received for connection and installation services that are not distinct performance obligations.

Where the initial set-up, transition or transformation phase of a long-term contract is considered to be a distinct performance obligation we recognise a contract asset for any work performed but not billed. Conversely a contract liability is recognised where these activities are not distinct performance obligations and we receive upfront consideration. In this case eligible costs associated with delivering these services are capitalised as fulfilment costs, see note 17.

We provide for expected lifetime losses on contract assets following the policy set out in note 17.

Contract assets and liabilities recognised are as follows:

£886m of the contract liability recognised at 31 March 2021 was recognised as revenue during the year (2019/20: £1,094m). Impairment losses of £47m were recognised on contract assets during the year (2019/20: £59m).

The expected credit loss provision recognised against contract assets vary across the group due to the nature of our customers; the expected loss rate at 31 March 2021 was 4% (2019/20: 4%).

17. Trade and other receivables

Significant accounting policies that apply to trade and other receivables

We initially recognise trade and other receivables at fair value, which is usually the original invoiced amount. They are subsequently carried at amortised cost using the effective interest method. The carrying amount of these balances approximates to fair value due to the short maturity of amounts receivable.

We provide services to consumer and business customers, mainly on credit terms. We know that certain debts due to us will not be paid through the default of a small number of our customers. Because of this, we recognise an allowance for doubtful debts on initial recognition of receivables, which is deducted from the gross carrying amount of the receivable. The allowance is calculated by reference to credit losses expected to be incurred over the lifetime of the receivable. In estimating a loss allowance we consider historical experience and informed credit assessment alongside other factors such as the current state of the economy and particular industry issues. We consider reasonable and supportable information that is relevant and available without undue cost or effort.

Once recognised, trade receivables are continuously monitored and updated. Allowances are based on our historical loss experiences for the relevant aged category as well as forward-looking information and general economic conditions, this includes the impact of Covid-19. Allowances are calculated by individual customer-facing units in order to reflect the specific nature of the customers relevant to that customer-facing unit.

Following the outbreak of Covid-19 we have reassessed our expected loss provisions including assessing the risk factors associated with various industry sectors and applying a risk weighting to each sector.

Contingent assets such as any insurance recoveries, or prepaid programme rights which we expect to recoup, have not been recognised in the financial statements as these are only recognised within trade and other receivables when their receipt is virtually certain.

a Prepayments include £702m (2019/20: £nil) relating to funds prepaid to Ofcom for the recent Spectrum auction.

b Other assets comprise prepayments and leasing debtors.

Trade receivables are stated after deducting allowances for doubtful debts, as follows:

Included within the movements above are certain items which have been classified as a specific item (see note 9). In 2020/21 a £7m release (2019/20: £67m increase) in the provision was treated as specific, reflecting lower expected credit losses above our standard provisioning policies as a result of Covid-19.

Note 28 provides further disclosure regarding the credit quality of our gross trade receivables. Trade receivables are due as follows:

Gross trade receivables which have been specifically impaired amounted to £52m (2019/20: £34m).

The expected credit loss allowance for trade receivables was determined as follows:

Trade receivables not past due and accrued income are analysed below by customer-facing unit.

a On 1 April 2020, Supply Chain and Pelipod, which serve several parts of BT, were transferred from Enterprise to the central procurement team and as a result will now be reported in Group ‘Other’ financial results. The impact on trade receivables was less than £1m in 2019/20 so the 2020 comparatives have not been restated.

Given the broad and varied nature of our customer base, the analysis of trade receivables not past due and accrued income by customer-facing unit is considered the most appropriate disclosure of credit concentrations.

Deferred contract costs

Significant accounting policies that apply to deferred contract costs

We capitalise certain costs associated with the acquisition and fulfilment of contracts with customers and amortise them over the period that we transfer the associated services.

Connection costs are deferred as contract fulfilment costs because they allow satisfaction of the associated connection performance obligation and are considered recoverable. Sales commissions and other third party contract acquisition costs are capitalised as costs to acquire a contract unless the associated contract term is less than 12 months, in which case they are expensed as incurred. Capitalised costs are amortised over the minimum contract term. A portfolio approach is used to determine contract term.

Where the initial set-up, transition and transformation phases of long-term contractual arrangements represent distinct performance obligations, costs in delivering these services are expensed as incurred. Where these services are not distinct performance obligations, we capitalise eligible costs as a cost of fulfilling the related service. Capitalised costs are amortised on a straight line basis over the remaining contract term, unless the pattern of service delivery indicates a more appropriate profile. To be eligible for capitalisation, costs must be directly attributable to specific contracts, relate to future activity, and generate future economic benefits. Capitalised costs are regularly assessed for recoverability.

The following table shows the movement on deferred costs: