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BT shares plummet as Drahi increases stake to 18% for £1bn

Patrick Drahi Altice.jpg

BT shares have fallen following news that Patrick Drahi has increased his stake in the company to 18%

The billionaire is the founder of European based telco Altice – a company which he took private and initially held a 12.1% stake in BT Group.

Shares in the company have continued to fall by around 7% since BT released a statement confirming the news.

In the statement released this morning, BT said: "The Board and management of BT Group will continue to operate the business in the interest of all shareholders and remains focussed on the successful execution of its strategy and building on recent performance momentum.”

PP Foresight analyst Paolo Pescatore notes that while the move was “widely expected”, “all options are still open”.

“There seems to be some uncertainty as to future plans and response from key stakeholders including the UK Government,” he said.

“The latter is actively monitoring the situation that could block any takeover deal in the national interests due to security concerns.”

In June, Drahi’s Altice paid £2.2 billion to attain an initial 12.1% stake in BT but had been blocked by UK takeover rules from making any further moves until December 11.

However, while Drahi insists that he is not intending to launch a full takeover, the UK government said it “would not hesitate to act” to protect one of its largest companies from a foreign takeover.

The UK has previously welcomed investment, but any full takeover approach would have major implications for the future implications of its connectivity given it is in the midst of a £15 billion fibre transformation programme.

Kester Mann, director, consumer and connectivity at CCS Insight said: "The sale of a British institution such as BT would be politically sensitive, particularly with the Government under mounting pressure over its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic.”

“Mr Drahi’s ambitions could face resistance from the National Security & Investment Act, due to come into force in January. This would allow the Government to block takeovers of UK companies that are deemed important to national security.

Mann added that the uncertainty that this has created will be an unwelcome distraction for BT as it seeks to turn around its financial performance after a challenging few years. 

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