Digital secretary Nadine Dorries has called in BT chief exec Philip Jansen to discuss its potential takeover by the French-Israeli billionaire, Patrick Drahi, this coming week.
Under the current Enterprise Act 2002, Dorries oversees Britain’s telecoms industry and any national security interests related to it. She is therefore set to deep dive into Drahi’s plans with the FTSE 100 company and whether a full takeover is feasible.
Until this week, Drahi has been blocked from buying more shares after his company Altice bought a 12.1 per cent stake in BT in June, making Drahi the largest shareholder.
Drahi’s plans for BT are likely to impact the government’s fibre broadband strategy, and the French businessman has already hinted at accelerating cost-cutting.
Telecoms have long been unvalued by the market, with BT’s share price remaining 65 per cent below 2015 levels. The French billionaire is in a position where he may increase his shares by buying out Deutsche Telekom.
Another important backdrop is the National Security and Investment Bill, which comes into effect from January.
This will give the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng powers to block deals involving buying more than 25 per cent of a company if it poses a risk to national security.
Shares in BT rallied as much as 10 per cent in late November, after an article in India’s Economic Times reported that Reliance Industries, an Indian multinational conglomerate owned by the richest man in India, could make a potential takeover offer for the business.
However, this was later refuted by chief exec Mukesh Ambani, who said the claims about Reliance eyeing up the British telecoms company were “baseless”.
Meanwhile, Drahi has amassed a £9bn fortune controlling companies, and whilst he has made his money in the telecoms space, he is also known in the wider media for his $3.7bn (£2.8bn) swoop on the iconic auction house Sotheby’s in 2019.
BT were contacted for comment this evening.