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Government Drop Security Probe of Altice UK’s Stake in BT UPDATE

Tuesday, Aug 23rd, 2022 (7:38 am) - Score 1,848

The Government’s move in May 2022 to conduct a “full national security assessment” of last year’s decision by Patrick Drahi’s (French billionaire) Altice UK, which increased its stake in UK broadband and telecoms giant BT from 12.1% to 18% (here), will result in “no further action” being taken by the Secretary of State.

In case anybody has forgotten. Last year saw BT move to strengthen its defences against a potential takeover attempt, or a demand for the operator to spin off its consumer (BT, Plusnet and EE) or network access division (Openreach), which was partly fuelled by Patrick Drahi’s growing stake in the operator.

Deutsche Telekom (DT), which has long been linked with speculation of a takeover attempt and holds a modest stake in BT, also added further fuel to the speculation by alluding to the possibility of a deal with others for BT (here). DT’s boss, Tim Hoettges, said: “In the next 12 months something is going to happen there around [our 12% stake in BT] … We are entertaining all options. We have a lot of optionalities now on the table in the BT business. We will do something which is a good deal.”

In the past, potential suitors have often ended up being discouraged by various concerns, such as over the operator’s complex regulatory position, uncertainties around the outcome of Brexit, challenges due to their massive debt and pension liabilities, as well as various other issues. But with Brexit and the pandemic largely out of the way, and Ofcom having given the green light for Openreach’s £15bn FTTP build, there are now fewer obstacles.

However, the new National Security and Investment Act 2021 effectively meant that any group making a play for BT would need the UK Government on their side, which could be a challenge because they’re currently minded to protect key players in the British technology sector.

The Government was clearly concerned enough about BT’s position that, in May 2022, they ended up calling Altice’s growing stake in for a security review (here). But a statement released by BT this morning indicates that “no further action is to be taken” following that review.

Statement from BT on Security Review

On 26 May 2022, BT Group plc (“BT Group”) announced that it had received notification from the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that he had considered the increase by Altice Europe N.V. of its shareholding in BT Group from 12.1% to 18% and was exercising his call-in power under section 1 of the National Security and Investment Act 2021 (the “Act”).

BT Group has now been notified by the Secretary of State that no further action is to be taken under the Act in relation to the increase by Altice Europe N.V. of its shareholding in BT Group from 12.1% to 18%.

A government spokesperson said:

“Following careful consideration, the Government will take no further action on the acquisition of 5.9% shares by Altice in BT. We will always act to protect our critical national telecoms infrastructure if we judge action is necessary. Under the National Security and Investment Act, acquisitions are assessed on a case by case basis, so any future transaction could be subject to a separate assessment under the Act”.

Back in May the Government’s move appeared to be overcautious, since they seemed to be reviewing a stock trade on the public market that, by itself, didn’t yet raise any obvious red flags (it would need to be a much bigger stake for that to happen). Having said that, we don’t yet have the Government’s side of today’s decision, and indeed the outcome does not prevent them from taking action in the future, should the situation change.


UPDATE 9:41am

We’ve added a comment from the government (BEIS) above .

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By Mark Jackson
Mark is a professional technology writer, IT consultant and computer engineer from Dorset (England), he also founded ISPreview in 1999 and enjoys analysing the latest telecoms and broadband developments. Find me on X (Twitter), Mastodon, Facebook and .
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12 Responses
  1. Avatar photo JAIL BORIS says:

    Probably find that the french company made a donation to the CONservative party to smooth things over

    1. Avatar photo Ad47uk says:

      LOL, yep, that is my thought, or they have shares in one of the companies.
      Corruption galore everywhere.

    2. Avatar photo Geo says:

      The Internet contains an infinite number of left-wing conspiracy nuts …

  2. Avatar photo John says:

    Looking at the ongoing problems with privatisation of various utilities and mad profiteering, I think these lot should be careful before riots start happening and the average joe goes mad, just look at what happened to the French and Russian royals…

  3. Avatar photo Jack Bauer says:

    I trust the French less than the Chinese. They’ve never liked us, and always attempted to undermine us. This is a mistake.

    1. Avatar photo Alex says:

      Drahi is French-Israeli, born in Morocco to a Jewish family. But nice massive generalisation sprinkled with a touch of xenophobia there.

    2. Avatar photo An Engineer says:

      May I suggest not getting your world view from the Mail, Express, etc? France is largely indifferent to the UK at worst and at best has a startling degree of respect given the nonsense people like you spout about it as you’d know if you spent any time there.

    3. Avatar photo Martin says:

      Politicians over the last few decades (Labour and Conservative) have seen UK infrastructure as their challenge to sell off as much as possible to foreigners. Britain has been FOR SALE for a very long time. Think of the money today, bury head in the sand what might happen tomorrow for future generations!

      One day, the UK will remain permanently in bankrupt detriment having sold off the crown jewels (UK infrastructure) at absolute bargain prices, only for everyone to pay record extortionate prices to have those basic services provided back to us at huge cost.

      Examples today EDF (Energy De France) who happily declare they rip us British off to subsidise the French. Magnificent investment for France, atrocious decision for UK.

      As a nation, all British politicians are total cretins for allowing this constant sell-off to happen. We the public will pay an extremely heavy price in the future when we are held to ransom over this. Our politicians are so short sighted it is ridiculous and shameful and most will be out of office by the time the damage they caused is truly realised.

    4. Avatar photo Jack Bauer says:

      Alex, I’m not a teenage millenial. So I don’t care what labels you feel good about after calling me. Call me all of them. I don’t care. Your teenager mind tricks don’t work on me. You can’t cancel me. So go cry into your Soy Latte.

    5. Avatar photo Jack Bauer says:

      An engineer. Oh you’re the angry Openreach monkey aren’t ya. Lol daily mail. You realise that non-boomers don’t read things like Daily Mail right? Did you think i’m 60 rocking back in my armchair waffling about the beetles or some other ancient stuff?

      How about consider that not everyone likes the French, for valid reasons. E.g. macron constantly trying to stop us from achieving anything. Now, on to your other point. I’ve lived in France for 17 years. Why do you think I dislike them so much? Oh wait, you think I read your daily mail don’t ya.

      God you lot are pathetic. Waaah he has a non-approved opinion quick grab the Woke phrasebook and throw everything you’ve got at him.


    6. Avatar photo Alex says:

      You sound very angry, I’m sorry if I touched a nerve.
      But it is sad that, in 2022, you think it’s ok to tar a whole nationality with a single, pejorative brush. If you’re not a teenage millenial, you should probably know better. Anyway, good luck with the bile management.

  4. Avatar photo Martin says:

    I’d agree with Jack Bauer 24h a day.

    Pro-rata, more immigrants are boating to England illegally from France than via 27EU nations combined when applying for official entry. And Alex on here says we don’t have a right to be livid with France? Pffffft. Whatever! They took our 100’s of millions to stop it and instead they send more than ever before. That is a sign of a nation not to be trusted with anything.

Comments are closed

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