The international telecoms group owned by French billionaire Patrick Drahi said the increased stake indicated support for BT’s strategy and was not step towards a potential takeover
Today, Altice UK has revealed that it has increased its stake in BT to 24.5%.
Altice UK, owned by French billionaire Patrick Drahi, was already the UK operator’s largest stakeholder, having grown its stake to 18% over the past 18 months.
Drahi formed Altice UK back in 2021 with the express purpose taking a 12.1% stake in BT for around £2 billion. At the time, Altice assured BT that it had no intention of presenting the telco with a takeover offer.
Later that year, Altice increased its stake by a further 6% to 18%, a move which set alarm bells ringing at BT and set in motion a number of defensive measures to shore up the company’s operations against a potential takeover. Despite this, Altice remained adamant that stake increase was merely a valuable investment opportunity rather than a precursor to a potential takeover.
Indeed, even with the latest stake increase today, Altice says that it is not considering a takeover, with Drahi noting that he will not seek a seat on BT’s board. In a short statement from Altice, the company said it “continues to hold [BT’s] management in high regard and remains fully supportive of their strategy”.
The timing of this stake increase is interesting, arriving just days after BT announced it would be cutting 55,000 jobs by the end of the decade as part of broader cost-cutting measures. According to the operator, around a quarter of these roles will be subsumed by rapidly advancing technologies like AI and automation, allowing for increased agility and efficiencies.
The news, which was delivered alongside BT’s latest financial results, saw shares fell over 7%, perhaps making them a more attractive prospect for Altice to invest.
It is worth noting that the new stake is just below 25% is no coincidence, with the UK’s National Security and Investment Act (NSIA) automatically requiring an investigation into any foreign company that holds a 25% or greater stake in a business deemed critical to national security, such as BT.
In fact, Altice’s stake in BT already faced a probe via the NSIA last year, though this was later called off by the Secretary of State.
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