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UK to probe Drahi’s increased BT stake

Patrick Drahi Altice.jpg

The Altice acquisition of 6% of shares in BT has been called in for a “full national security assessment”, the UK government has today announced.

This announcement comes after the UK government previously said it “would not hesitate to act” to protect one of its largest companies from a foreign takeover.

BT shares plummeted last year following the announcement that the billionaire owner of Altice Patrick Drahi had increased his stake in the company from 12% to 18%.

Shares fell a further 4% after the review was announced.

The assessment of the deal by business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has 30 days to come to a conclusion – which could be extended to 45 if necessary and that process is now underway.

A statement released on the gov.uk website added: “The government has powers under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 to scrutinise and – if necessary – intervene in qualifying acquisitions on national security grounds.”

The UK previously welcomed investment but a full takeover of its plans could hinder its £15 billion fibre transformation programme.

Drahi has previously insisted he does not intend to launch a full takeover of the company, however, June will see the takeover code that prevents a new bid, expire.

In a statement, BT said it “will fully cooperate with the review”.