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Will BT shareholder Altice seek a takeover or breakup?

·2-min read

MOROCCO-born, Swiss-based French-Portuguese Israeli Patrick Drahi’s real plans for BT are as unclear as his origins are exotic.

Yes, he says he’s a big fan of Philip Jansen’s hard-driving push to bring superfast fibre to 25 million homes, but what does he mean when he says he can bring his 20 years of expertise to bear? How? Being a sleeping shareholder won’t achieve much.

Clearly, he’ll push to get on the board and start “helping” (agitating?) there as he sees fit.

What might that help look like?

His camp say he’s not sure yet, but sees BT as better positioned than the “altnets” — CityFibre and the rest — to make big money from the big fibre rollout. He’s right— by far the biggest (financially and politically), BT is the likely broadband winner. But its shares are far from being a pure play on that. With BT stock, you also get exposure to all the other stuff it does, including EE, retail stores and a big pension deficit.

The purer play would be Openreach, but you can’t invest in that alone. Perhaps Drahi will push for it to be spun off, but that is messy and years of work. BT is reluctant to deal with the distraction while it has so much on with fibre.

Will Drahi buy the whole thing? He can’t for six months, but after that, maybe; he’s done hefty leveraged deals before. Again, though, you question if he’d want its non-fibre arms.

One thing is clear, he likes Jansen’s hard-driving approach to rolling fibre out fast. For the BT CEO, having just fought (and won) a battle with his chairman over that very issue, Drahi’s arrival could be a very good thing.

Read More

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