The 12.1% stake comes at a time when BT is seeking investment to help fund its widespread rollout of fibre and 5G
Today, BT has confirmed that Altice has acquired a 12.1% stake in the company for around £2 billion.
Altice Group, owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, currently operate France’s second largest operator SFR, as well as other operations in Portugal, Isreal, and the Dominican Republic. For their new investment in BT, the Group has created a new business unit, Altice UK, in order to manage the investment/
The 12.1% stake makes Altice UK BT’s largest stakeholder; Deutsche Telekom notably holds a 12% stake in the business.
But despite acquiring the largest stake in the company, Altice has been quick to reassure BT’s management, who were only informed of the investment on Wednesday, that they have no intention of making a takeover offer for the business.
“Altice holds the Board and Management team of BT in high regard and is supportive of their strategy. Altice UK has informed the BT Board that it does not intend to make a takeover offer for BT,” said Altice in a statement.
Legally, Altice will not be allowed to make an unsolicited takeover offer for at least six months, barring pre-approval from BT.
In recent months, BT has been calling for fresh investment as the UK’s largest operator looks to ramp up its fibre efforts. Favourable regulatory changes earlier this year have seen BT increase its fibre-to-the-premises target from 20 million to 25 million by December 2026, creating around 7,000 UK jobs in the process. While this increase will reportedly be funded internally, the operator noted that it was open to the possibility of funding this additional 5 million through a joint venture with external parties.
“BT has a significant opportunity to upgrade and extend its full-fibre broadband network to bring substantial benefits to millions of households across the UK,” said Drahi. “We fully support the management’s strategy to deliver on this opportunity.”
The company has been looking to welcome new investors for some time now, with CEO Philip Jansen noting back in November 2020 that he was “open minded” about the possibility of selling a minority stake in Openreach. In fact, this is likely Drahi’s real target for Altice’s investment, with some suggesting that he could push management towards spinning off BT’s extensive fibre unit.
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