Drahi said to be eyeing a bigger slice of BT
Timotheus Höttges, the CEO of Deutsche Telekom (DT), is probably getting a bit tired of being asked what Patrick Drahi is likely to do with the 12.1% stake that his company Altice acquired in BT earlier this year.
DT also owns just over 12% of the UK incumbent, and it remains unclear how BT's two biggest shareholders will proceed in future.
Indeed, the question came up again during DT's earnings call for the third quarter (Q3) of 2021, causing a somewhat exasperated Höttges to exclaim that his answer has already been downloaded on Spotify 300,000 times.
"On BT, I cannot say something at that point in time," Höttges said.
"The BT stock is something which we see as a long-term value creation for us ... We keep all options open in this regard. It's good to have that stake in this dynamic environment. But I cannot speculate ... [or] open up our hands here to show the market where we are heading to and then suddenly something else is happening."
In September, Höttges said he thought it likely that "something is going to happen with the [BT] asset" within the next 12 months "because the shareholder side is changing rapidly."
Recent indications are that he could be right: Reuters has just reported that Drahi is now looking to increase his stake in BT. Unidentified sources also told the news agency that any stake-building plan was likely to involve DT.
Höttges was certainly positive about BT's recent efforts to reduce costs and expand its fiber buildout program.
"I think BT has done a lot of things right, solving a lot of issues which were on their plate," he said during the Q3 earnings call.
Portugal to go?
Drahi will be free to buy more BT shares from December 11.
The sources also told Reuters that an increase in Altice's stake in BT could happen in conjunction with a potential exit by Altice from Portugal, where it owns a fixed and mobile telecoms business under the MEO brand.
It was reported in June that Drahi hired Lazard to represent Altice Europe in reviewing options for MEO. However, price expectations are seen as a major hurdle, and a deal is clearly far from certain.
Drahi has reportedly set a price tag of about €7 billion (US$8.01 billion) for MEO valuing it at about eight times its annual core earnings. The bidders have reportedly been given until Christmas to decide if they want to make firm offers or walk away.
- Deutsche Telekom CEO keeps BT options open
- BT shares slide on Q1 dip, heated broadband rivalry
- Altice snags 12.1% stake in BT
- Eutelsat grounds Drahi's takeover bid
- Altice Europe set to delist next week
— Anne Morris, contributing editor, special to Light Reading