The UK government opened a national security assessment on Altice’s purchase of a 6 per cent stake in BT Group in 2021 which took the company’s holding in the operator to 18 per cent.

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng ordered the move earlier today (26 May) under the National Security and Investment Act. The investigation was opened immediately.

The law was passed in 2021 and allows authorities to intervene on business transactions deemed to pose a risk to national security.

Under the rules, authorities have an initial term of 30 working days to complete their probe, though this can be extended by a further 45 if needed.

In a statement, BT noted it would fully cooperate with the review.

The investigation concerns the extension of Altice UK’s stake in BT announced in December 2021, six months after the company became the operator’s largest shareholder when it splashed €2 billion on a 12.1 per cent stake.

Altice UK is controlled by billionaire Patrick Drahi, who also owns French operator SFR’s parent Altice Europe along with a wide range of other business interests.

Since the company started building its stake in BT, media speculation on a potential takeover bid has been rife despite Altice backing management and pledging not to make a full offer.

On extending its stake, Altice UK reiterated it did not intend to launch a full takeover bid for BT unless one of a number of specific developments occurred, including a third party making a bid or the board agreeing to a sale.

Financial Times noted UK takeover rules mean its commitment in late 2021 was valid until mid-June.