French telco Altice has become the largest single shareholder in BT after purchasing a 12.1% stake in the company.
Altice says it has no intention of making a takeover bid for BT and believes there is a “compelling opportunity” in the roll out of full fibre infrastructure in the UK.
BT recently increased its full fibre rollout target by five million premises and now hopes to reach 25 million homes and businesses by December 2026.
This ambition, coupled with Government support and a favourable regulatory environment, means Altice considers the UK as a sound environment for long-term investment. The French firm has stressed its support for the current BT board, management and strategy going forward.
“BT Group notes the announcement from Altice of their investment in BT and their statement of support for our management and strategy,” said BT in a statement. “We welcome all investors who recognize the long-term value of our business and the important role it plays in the UK. We are making good progress in delivering our strategy and plan.”
Altice was founded by Patrick Drahi in 2001 and has since grown into France’s second largest telecoms provider through acquisitions of various regional cable companies and mobile operator SFR. It also has a significant presence in Israel, Portugal, and the Dominican Republic.
“We understand that the expansion of the broadband network is one of the UK Government’s most important policy objectives and a core part of its levelling up agenda,” said Drahi.
“Altice has a long and highly successful record of effectively operating national fibre and mobile networks in a number of countries, serving over 40 million customers.
“Our approach is to combine high levels of technical expertise, resilience and operating efficiency with a strong focus on innovation and customer service. Altice has brought an entrepreneurial culture, energy and effectiveness to building its networks and operations.”
BT’s next largest shareholder is Deutsche Telekom, which acquired a 12% stake as part of the £12.6 billion sale of EE in 2016. Altice’s rival Orange, which was also a partner in the EE joint-venture, has since sold its stake in BT.