Altice UK Buys 12.1% of BT Group but Doesn't Plan Takeover -- Update

06/10/2021 | 02:18am
Patrick Drahi

--Altice UK, owned by tycoon Patrick Drahi, has built a 12.1% stake in BT Group

--Altice UK said it doesn't plan to make an offer for the U.K. telecoms group

--BT shares rose on the latest sign of support for its strategy

By Ian Walker and Adria Calatayud

Altice UK Sarl, a company owned by French telecommunications tycoon Patrick Drahi, said Thursday that it has bought a 12.1% shareholding in BT Group PLC, but doesn't plan to make an offer for the U.K. telecoms company.

Altice UK said it holds the board and management team of BT in high regard and is supportive of their strategy.

The company said BT has a compelling opportunity to deliver on the U.K. government's full-fiber, gigabit-capable broadband network expansion.

Altice UK owns 1.2 billion shares in BT that are valued at 2.20 billion pounds ($3.11 billion), based on BT's closing price of 183.15 pence Wednesday.

BT said that it welcomes all investors who recognize the long-term value of its business and the role it plays in the U.K. "We are making good progress in delivering our strategy and plan," BT said.

The investment from Altice UK is the latest sign of support for BT, which is trying to accelerate its fiber-network rollout and to bounce back from the coronavirus pandemic. The U.K. telecoms group has previously said it expects to return to earnings growth in fiscal 2023, after years of declining profits and revenue.

At 0736 GMT, BT shares were trading 1.7% higher at 186.25 pence, and were up 41% in the year to date.

BT last month said it targeted building fiber-broadband connections to 25 million homes and businesses in the U.K., up from its previous target of 20 million, and that it would explore funding the 5 million additional deployments through a joint venture with external partners.

Altice UK's investment in BT makes it one of the top shareholders of the company, with a stake of roughly the same size as that indirectly held by German telecoms giant Deutsche Telekom AG. According to BT's fiscal 2021 annual report, Deutsche Telekom's T-Mobile Holdings has a 12.06% stake.

France's Orange in 2019 completed the sale of the shares it held in BT.

Altice UK said it has been established for the purpose of holding the shares in BT, and that it is separate from the other Altice companies.

Mr. Drahi last year agreed to take full control of Altice Europe NV, in a deal that led to the delisting of the company in January.

Write to Ian Walker at ian.walker@wsj.com and Adria Calatayud at adria.calatayudvaello@dowjones.com

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

06-10-21 0418ET

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