The surprise purchase of 12.1 per cent of BT (BT.A) for £2.2bn by Altice, France’s second-largest telecom company controlled by tycoon Patrick Drahi, revived the market’s interest in the company’s flagging share price. The shares rose 8 per cent on the back of the announcement. The deal makes Altice BT’s equal largest shareholders alongside Deutsche Telekom (DAX: DTE).
The intriguing point is that Altice has not positioned itself, at least publicly, as an activist investor and its statement made clear that BT’s current management, along with the latest turnaround plan, has its full confidence. Any notion that Altice might attempt a full takeover was also squashed.
The irony is that an activist investor might be what BT really needs. Though having shed its image as the telephone arm of the civil service a long time ago – according to former employees, the overmanning was so bad that the company was able to phase out 100,000 jobs, without having to resort to any compulsory redundancies whatsoever - the past 20 years have seen a succession of management teams and turnaround plans go awry.