Tycoon Patrick Drahi’s telecoms group Altice UK raised its stake in BT Group to 18 per cent, but distanced away from currently launching a full takeover bid as the UK government warned it could intervene.

In a statement to the London Stock Exchange, Altice UK communicated it had upped its stake by 6 per cent, after building a 12.1 per cent holding in the company in June for £2 billion, making it BT’s largest single shareholder.

It however added it had restated its position to the BT board that “it does not intend” to make a full takeover bid, but that could change should a “third party announce a firm intention to make an offer”.

Drahi said it had engaged with BT’s board and management over recent months “and continue to hold them in high regard and remain fully supportive of their strategy”.

Should Drahi launch a takeover bid, he will almost certainly face opposition from the UK government.

A representative stated it was committed to levelling up the country through digital infrastructure and “will not hesitate to act if required to protect our critical national telecoms infrastructure”.

The representative also cited an upcoming National Security and Investment Act due to come into force in January 2022, which could be used to block a BT takeover.

Bolster defences
In its own statement, BT pledged it “would continue to operate the business in the interest of shareholders” and remained focussed on its long term strategy.

Altice’s move had been somewhat expected after Sky News reported in October BT had hired investment bank Robey Warshaw to bolster its defences against a potential takeover bid, or if there were demands for a spin-off of its fibre infrastructure or consumer divisions.