The UK government hit pause on an ongoing probe into an Altice move to build up an 18 per cent stake in BT Group as it seeks to gather more information, Bloomberg reported.
In May, the UK opened a security assessment on French billionaire Patrick Drahi’s Altice after it bought a further 6 per cent of BT Group, giving it an overall holding of 18 per cent.
The government’s deadline to conclude the investigation was last week, however Bloomberg reported it requested more details.
Drahi’s stake is being probed under the National Security and Investment Act, which was passed in 2021 and allows authorities to intervene on business transactions deemed to pose a threat to national security.
Under the law, authorities have 30 days to complete probes, but it can extend by a further 45 if required.
The act allows government ministers to retrospectively impose conditions or unpick deals, and Bloomberg reported the BT probe can be considered a test case for other major interventions in the future.
Altice become BT’s largest single shareholder when it built up a 12.1 per cent stake with a €2 billion investment in June 2021. It then cemented its position six months later with the additional 6 per cent.
Speculation was naturally rife Altice would attempt a full takeover, although its board pledged not to pursue one.