UK government won't review Drahi BT stake

(Image credit: BT/EE)

The UK government will not take any action regarding French-Israeli tycoon Patrick Drahi’s stake in BT, deeming his interest not to be an issue that demands intervention.

Drahi, the French-Israeli founder of Altice and owner of auction house Sotheby’s, surprised many in the industry when he acquired a 12% stake in BT for £2.2 million in June 2021 – a move that made him the company’s largest single shareholder.

He then invested another £1 billion to increase the stake of his Altice UK vehicle to 18% in December that year, making a legally-binding commitment not to launch a takeover bid for another six months. 

BT Altice

That period expired in June 2022, fuelling speculation of a takeover bid.

With the government viewing BT’s investment in full fibre and 5G networks crucial to its wider economic and policy aims, coupled with the fact the telecommunications infrastructure is increasingly an issue of national security, it informed BT in May that it would be looking into the situation.

Under the National Security and Investment Act, department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BIES) can review foreign takeovers in businesses it believes are integral to national security. However, it has now said it will not be exercising its ‘call-in’ powers

“BT Group has now been notified by the Secretary of State that no further action is to be taken under the Act in relation to the increase by Altice Europe N.V. of its shareholding in BT Group from 12.1% to 18%,” said BT.

Despite the speculation, Drahi claims to have no interest in a full takeover and has given his support to the existing BT management team and strategy.

Steve McCaskill is TechRadar Pro's resident mobile industry expert, covering all aspects of the UK and global news, from operators to service providers and everything in between. He is a former editor of Silicon UK and journalist with over a decade's experience in the technology industry, writing about technology, in particular, telecoms, mobile and sports tech, sports, video games and media.