Altice’s Stake in BT under UK National Security Probe

Altice is owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, BT’s biggest shareholder. The move raised his stake in the telecoms company to 18% in December.

The UK government is checking out French telco Altice’s acquisition of 6% of shares in BT for national security reasons.

While 6% may not sound much, Altice is owned by billionaire Patrick Drahi, BT’s biggest shareholder. The move raised his stake in the telecoms company to 18% in December.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng explains that the UK government has powers under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 to scrutinise and – if necessary – intervene in qualifying acquisitions on national security grounds.

It seems to be a busy week for probes as the UK government also announced a full national security assessment of the acquisition of Newport Wafer Fab by Chinese-owned Nexperia.

As Reuters notes in this Altice-BT deal, Franco-Israeli entrepreneur Drahi bought 12.1% of BT in June last year and raised that to 18% in December, but said he did not intend to make a takeover bid.

  • Read about the probe into a Chinese takeover of Newport Wafer Fab here

Under the December purchase, Drahi was anyway excluded from making a bid for six months. That period ends on 14 June.

The UK warned it would intervene if necessary to protect the telecoms group building the country’s critical fibre network.

BT says it will fully cooperate with the government probe. Altice UK declined to comment.

  • News in May – BT Chooses AWS Cloud for Digital Revamp – read it here

Deutsche Telekom owns around 12% of BT, according to Refinitiv Eikon data, giving two major foreign peers sizeable stakes in the UK’s biggest telecoms company.

Reuters points out that Altice controls SFR, France’s second-biggest telecoms company. Neither Altice nor Deutsche Telekom has significant business in the UK.

The UK government has 30 working days (extendable by up to a further 45 working days) to carry out its assessment. That process is underway.

Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton
Antony Peyton is the Editor of eWeek UK. He has 18 years' journalism and writing experience. His career has taken him to China, Japan and the UK - covering tech, fintech and business. Follow on Twitter @TonyFintech.

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