Altice, the telecoms investor controlled by billionaire Patrick Drahi, has taken a 12.1 per cent stake in BT worth £2bn, in a move aimed at backing the UK telecoms company’s fibre push.
The acquisitive company, which has bought telecoms networks in France, Israel, Portugal and the US, has established a UK company separate from its main operations to make the investment in BT.
It said it did not intend to make a bid for the British company, meaning that under the takeover code it cannot make an unsolicited buyout offer for six months without the approval of BT’s management.
Altice bought the shares this week through banks but only informed BT’s management on Wednesday that it had become the largest shareholder in the company. Deutsche Telekom owns a 12 per cent stake in BT.
Drahi believes BT is best placed to take advantage of the huge investment in upgrading Britain’s broadband networks to full-fibre that is not reflected in its share price.
“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.”
BT chief executive Philip Jansen has said that the company needs long-term investors as it embarks on a capital expenditure-heavy network upgrade.
Altice’s investment also came as BT searches for a chair to replace Jan du Plessis, who is due to step down in the summer in the wake of a boardroom fracas.
“We welcome all investors who recognise the long-term value of our business and the important role it plays in the UK,” BT said in a statement on Thursday. “We are making good progress in delivering our strategy and plan.”
Altice delisted its shares in Amsterdam last year, after arguing they were undervalued.