Altice Group, which Patrick Drahi controls, owns 18% of the British operator and his undertaking not to mount a takeover bid ends tomorrow.
The ownership of the UK’s incumbent operator, BT, is again a matter for conjecture as the restrictions on Patrick Drahi’s Altice group comes to an end. BT is seen as one of the country’s most strategically important firms.
Drahi surprised the market when he acquired a 12.1 stake in BT in June last year, which he increased to 18% in December when he renewed his assurance he would attempt to gain a controlling share.
Bloomberg has suggested that Drahi might cosy up with Deutsche Telekom, which holds a 12% stake in BT, if the French-Israeli billionaire attempts to gain a controlling stake.
Any such move is highly likely to trigger the UK government’s intervention, under the terms of the recent National Security and Investment Act, which was cited by Kwasi Kwarteng , Secretary of State for Business, Industry and Skills, when he announced an investigation into Drahi’s stake.
According Forbes and cited in The Times, Drahi’s financial worth has slumped from a high of $16 billion in 2015 to $6.3 billion now. “Those business setbacks have raised questions in the City over whether the Swiss-based businessman lacks not only the political cover but the financial firepower to engineer greater control of BT,” according to The Times’ article.
Drahi has previous
Four years ago the European Commission imposed a €124.5 million fine on Altice for implementing its acquisition of Portugal Telecom before notification or approval by the European Commission.
Previously, France’s competition authority slapped an €80 million fine relating to the takeovers of SFR and OTL Group, which distributed services under the Virgin Mobile brand, in November 2016.