French telecoms giant takes 12% stake in BT

(BT)

One of Europe’s largest broadband companies stunned the industry by spending £ 2 billion on a 12.1% stake in BT.

Altice UK, which is part of France’s second largest telecommunications giant, Altice, has built up its huge stake over the past two days and met with the CEO and Chairman of BT last night.

The company said it supports BT’s plans to roll out super-broadband and has no plans to launch a takeover, but analysts said it would likely want a seat on the board. to influence its future direction.

The purchase of shares makes it BT’s largest shareholder, slightly ahead of Deutsche Telekom. DT has a member of the board of directors.

He has pledged not to launch a full offer on BT unless the company’s board of directors accepts it or another company makes a takeover bid.

The commitment not to bid now prevents him from making an offer for at least six months under UK takeover rules.

In a statement, the French group said: “Altice UK has made this important investment in BT because it believes it has a compelling opportunity to implement one of the most important policies of the UK government, namely the Substantial expansion of access to a full fiber, gigabit compatible broadband network across the UK.

BT recently won a pricing framework from regulators that will allow it to roll out fiber optic to 25 million homes by the end of 2026.

Altice was founded by Frenchman Patrick Drahi who bought and then took over the French telecommunications group SFR and is present in the United States, Portugal and Israel, with a total of 40 million customers.

Drahi said he “holds BT’s board and management team in high regard and supports their strategy.”

He created Altice UK specifically to make the investment.

Large foreign investors have rushed to build broadband networks here as the UK catches up to faster internet speeds after what has been seen as years of underinvestment.

Alternative networks to BT – known as Altnets – have been backed by billionaire Mikhail Fridman, Goldman Sachs and other long-term investors with deep pockets looking for decades of guaranteed returns from subscribers .

Drahi’s decision to invest £ 2bn in BT will not only be seen as a huge endorsement of the former monopoly’s strategy, but means that he will not deploy the money with a rival such as CityFibre, argued by Goldman, who reportedly sought a new investor.

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