France-based Orange took steps to cut its stake in BT from 4 per cent to as little as 1.33 per cent, adding to a string of recent troubles to hit the UK telecoms group.
Orange said in a statement it had issued a private placement of approximately 133 million shares as part of the sale for £383 million, with BT buying £200 million worth (69 million shares) for its Employee Share Ownership Trust.
The remaining 64 million shares are to be sold to eligible institutions and qualified investors.
Orange will also issue convertible bonds worth roughly £517 million on 27 June 2017 – due in 2021 – which can be exchanged into BT shares. Initially, Orange will retain a 2.66 per cent stake in BT, which will be reduced to 1.33 per cent through the bond issuance.
The France-headquartered operator took a 4 per cent stake in BT after selling its share of mobile operator EE to the UK telecoms group.
As part of the deal, Orange received £3.4 billion in cash and the small equity stake in BT.
However, since the EE deal closed, BT’s share value has plummeted. The company took a 21 per cent hit in late January after issuing a profit warning relating to a £530 million write-off following an accounting scandal at its Italian unit.
Orange was tied into retaining its shares in BT for 12 months after the completion of the EE deal, but the lock in clause expired on 29 January 2017.
Indeed, Orange was reported to be considering an immediate disposal of its entire stake at the time. The operator said it was “keeping exposure to a potential future share price increase through its residual stake”.
Orange’s sale comes at a time when BT’s shares are at their lowest level since 2013, reported Financial Times.