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French billionaire Patrick Drahi amasses 18% stake in BT


Patrick Drahi is the president of French telecoms group Altice. He smiles as he inaugurates the Altice Campus in Paris. This was October 9, 2018.

Eric Piermont | AFP | Getty Images

LONDON — French billionaire Patrick Drahi has increased his stake in British telecommunications company BTThe U.K. responded to the concerns of a complete takeover, prompting an immediate response.

BT announced that Altice’s telecoms firm, Drahi, was notified to its board by BT. It had taken 12.1% of BT’s ownership up to 18%.

Shares in BT fell 6% on Tuesday morning.

“The Board and Management of BT Group will continue operating the business in the
Interest of all shareholders remains focused on the success of execution
BT released a statement on Tuesday saying that it was continuing to build upon recent performance momentum and strategy.”

BT, which dates back to 1846 when it was founded as the first publicly owned telegraph company worldwide, is a landmark company in U.K. corporate culture. Although it used to be a state owned company, the privatization of the business occurred at the end 20th century.

BT’s vision of upgrading the national network infrastructure has been difficult to sell investors in recent years. BT is now a major player in 5G mobile internet. Shares of the £16.3 billion ($21.6 billion) firm are down around 55% in the last five years.

Drahi was born in Morocco but emigrated to France as a teenagerForbes claims that Altice was founded by Antoine in 2001.

He stunned the telecoms world in June when his firm paid £2.2 billion for a 12.1% stake in BT. There are concerns about a potential full-scale takeover due to his involvement in BT.

Because of U.K. takeover regulations, Altice was not allowed to pursue further equity ownership at BT beyond Dec. 11. On Tuesday, Altice said it doesn’t intend to acquire BT, but this could change under a certain set of circumstances — including if a third party were to make an offer.

Drahi released a statement saying that his company had “engaged constructively” with BT’s board of directors and management, and that it “look forward” to “continuing that dialogue.”

Drahi stated, “We still hold them in high regards and remain fully supportive their strategy. Principally, to play the pivotal part in delivering full fibre broadband access.”

Boris Johnson, the U.K. prime minister responded to Tuesday’s news that Drahi had increased his stake in BT. A spokesperson for the government stated that it is “monitoring this situation carefully” in a short statement.

“The Government is committed to levelling up the country through digital infrastructure, and will not hesitate to act if required to protect our critical national telecoms infrastructure,” the spokesperson said.

In Jan 2022, the U.K. will implement new laws that give them power to interfere in national security-related acquisitions.

Already, Nvidia is one of the foreign-led takeovers being reviewed by government officials. acquisition of chip designer ArmAnd a Chinese-owned firm’s buyout of Britain’s largest chip producer.

Rumours have circulated that other potential buyers are considering a bid to buy BT. Reliance Industries is an Indian multinational conglomerate that recently denied reports from Economic Times that it might be considering making an offer.