It is well known: Patrick Drahi loves surprises. And as much to say that the one that the boss of the Altice holding (which oversees SFR) has just taken out of his hat is worth its weight in gold. The telecoms magnate has just announced the acquisition of 12.1% of the capital of the main British operator BT, while denying any intention to make a takeover bid on the group. Enough to make him one of the main shareholders of the largest operator across the Channel, behind Deutsche Telekom (12.06%), but ahead of major investment funds like Blackrock.
The transaction de facto creates a new structure, called Altice UK, 100% owned by Patrick Drahi. This will collect the 1.2 million shares of BT gleaned by the businessman and will be “distinct from other Altice companies while benefiting from the group’s deep and extensive expertise and experience.” . In a press release, the British operator “takes note of Altice’s announcement regarding its investment in BT and of its statement of support for our management and our strategy”.
This transaction allows Patrick Drahi to gain a foothold in the English market, which has just embarked on a race to deploy very high speed with the promise of guaranteeing universal access to very high speed by 2025. For To achieve this goal, Boris Johnson’s government recently planned to allocate 5 billion pounds sterling (or 5.8 billion euros) to the equipment of the country. A windfall on which the boss of SFR relies, whose attraction for fiber and cable has never wavered.
Interest in fiber
“BT has a major opportunity to improve and extend its fiber optic network to the benefit of millions of homes across the UK,” said Patrick Drahi upon closing of the transaction. “We believe that the expansion of the very high speed network is one of the most important political objectives of the British government and a central element of its action plan”, he added, confirming in fact the weight of the Very high speed plan concocted by the British executive in this equity investment.
The deal is expected to close in a British market in turmoil after the conclusion of the mega-merger between Virgin Media and O2, in the amount of 31 billion pounds (35.7 billion euros), which should give birth to one of the largest operators in the country. This investment in the United Kingdom also comes as Patrick Drahi, also present in the United States, is reorganizing its assets in Europe. At the end of January, he took almost full control of Altice Europe, which oversees its assets on the Old Continent, and withdrew the title from the Amsterdam Stock Exchange.
The holding company is also considering parting with Meo, its operator in Portugal which it had bought at the end of 2014 for 7.4 billion euros. Altice is also considering parting with Meo, its operator in Portugal, which he bought at the end of 2014 for 7.4 billion euros. One way for Patrick Drahi’s group to gain leverage while the latter is weighed down by a debt of more than 30 billion euros in debt accumulated in recent years after a bulimia of acquisitions.