UK government to probe Altice’s BT stake

The UK government is to examine the national security implications of French telecom group Altice’s 18 per cent holding in BT, the telecoms and internet operator, in one of the first uses of a recently introduced power.

BT said on Thursday that it had received notification from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy that the secretary of state was exercising his “call-in power” under the new National Security and Investment Act 2021 to examine the increase in the French company’s stake.

Altice announced in December that it was increasing its stake in BT from 12 per cent to 18 per cent but said that it did not intend to make a bid for the company. Altice is controlled by Franco-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi.

“BT Group will fully co-operate with this review,” the company said on Thursday.

The NSI Act, which came into force on January 4 this year, allows greater scrutiny of foreign takeovers of companies in sensitive industries.

The move over the BT stake comes after the department on Wednesday said it was examining the takeover last year of Newport Wafer Fab, in Wales, by Nexperia, a Dutch subsidiary of Chinese company Wingtech.

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