Government to investigate French billionaire’s stake in BT over national security fears

BT has confirmed the government is reviewing French billionaire Patrick Drahi’s decision to increase his stake in the telecommunications giant (BT/PA) (PA Media)

business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng told BT that the Government will consider French Billionaire Patrick Drahi increased his stake in the company by 18% due to national security concerns.

Altice, Mr Drahi’s investment arm and the company’s largest shareholder, increased its stake from 12.1% to 18% in December last year, raising fears that the company is ripe for a redemption.

The government will now seek to review the decision using ‘appeal powers’ under the new national security and investment law.

Mr Kwarteng will have the power to authorize the move or, “if necessary and proportionate”, to impose certain conditions on the investment or to block it altogether.

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has the power to authorize the investment, impose certain conditions or block it altogether (PA) (PA Wire)

Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng has the power to authorize the investment, impose certain conditions or block it altogether (PA) (PA Wire)

New Invoice also specifically allows the government to prevent a single investor from owning more than 25% of a company deemed to be of national importance.

BT maintains the telephone cables and telephone exchanges connecting almost every home and business in the UK to the broadband and telephone network through its Openreach operation.

“BT Group will cooperate fully with this review,” the company said in a statement.

When announcing his investment last year, Mr Drahi said he had no plans to take the company private as he acquired an additional 585 million shares to increase his stake.

The government said it was “monitoring” the investment at the time.

Mr Drahi is said to be worth £9billion, with his fortune being made in the telecommunications sector. He also bought the Sotheby’s auction house in 2019.

He made his first purchase of BT shares in June, and interest in the telecommunications giant has intensified in recent months with reports that other international players are eyeing the company.

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