The billionaire is reportedly considering increasing his stake to the maximum allowed before being obligated to make a mandatory takeover offer
Today, anonymous sources cited by This Is Money suggest that billionaire Patrick Drahi is once again looking to increase his stake in BT.
According to these insiders, Drahi is considering increasing his stake in the UK’s largest telecoms operator to 29.9% – the largest share possible without triggering a mandatory takeover offer for the business.
Drahi first acquired a stake in BT back in 2021, buying a 12.1% stake in the operator for around £2 billion via the newly formed Altice UK.
Less than a year later, 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.
Finally, earlier this year, Drahi again increased his stake in the business, this time to 24.5%.
At every juncture Drahi and Altice have insisted that they have no interest in taking over BT and this reportedly remains the case today.
However, it is worth noting here that if Drahi and Altice do intend to increase their stake in BT, it would trigger an investigation by the UK government under the National Security & Investment Act. This Act, made law at the start of 2022, gives the UK Business Secretary powers to veto foreign investments if an investigation finds they may represent a threat to national security.
Altice has faced such an investigation before, following its previous stake increase, and the government deemed no intervention to be necessary. Whether this would still be the case for this larger stake, however, remains to be seen.
This is especially poignant given the other headline Altice news over the past week – namely, that Altice’s co-founder and former COO, Armando Pereira, has arrested as part of a major three-year investigation into corporate corruption.
The sting operation, which took place last week, resulted in three men being arrested, roughly 90 premises searched, and around €20 million in property seized.
Authorities are currently questioning Pereira and others in relation to charges of corruption, tax fraud, and money laundering.
Altice says it is complying with the investigation and has suspended contracts with around 60 suppliers, as well as launching internal audits.
According to sources, the impact to the company’s supply chain could have significant repercussions for the company’s network rollout.
Yossi Benchetrit, Altice USA’s head of procurement and Pereira’s son-in-law, has also been suspended.
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