Private equity firms reportedly mull £15bn BT bid

BT’s share price has jumped on a rumour that it is preparing to defend itself from a potential £15 billion takeover bid.

This is according to Sky News, which reports that several large private equity firms are exploring the possibility of launching a joint offer for the whole company. In response, BT is said to have asked bankers at Goldman Sachs to update its bid defence strategy. Presumably this is a fancy way of saying it is going to beg large shareholders – which includes Deutsche Telekom – to ignore any offers. The report also claimed that BT might hire boutique investment bank Robey Warshaw as an advisor.

Unsurprisingly, a BT spokesman declined to comment on the report.

Before the news broke, BT’s market capitalisation stood just north of £10 billion, making it cheaper than the sum of its parts. Indeed, when rumours circulated that BT was mulling whether to offer a stake in networks business Openreach to its pension scheme in a bid to plug its multi-billion-pound deficit, the unit was valued at around £20 billion.

There are several reasons why, for a company of its size, BT Group’s shares are going for bargain-basement prices – the aforementioned pension scheme being one of them.

There is also the non-trivial matter of Openreach’s plan to roll out full fibre to millions of premises – which includes 3.2 million rural residences – by the middle of the decade. The high cost of such a project led BT to axe its annual dividend for the first time since privatisation.

In addition, Covid-19 and the resulting postponement of several major sporting events, also hit its TV business.

BT is also in the middle of a major restructuring that includes 13,000 redundancies and shuttering 90 percent of its offices in an effort to shed £1.5 billion of costs over five years. It also struggling to steady the ship at Global Services. Its enterprise unit has been hit by reduced business activity caused by the pandemic. Global Services is also still trying to bounce back from 2017’s accounting scandal in Italy – the catalyst for the slump in BT’s shares and which ultimately led to the departure of former CEO Gavin Patterson.

Sources cited by Sky claim his successor, Philip Jansen, would be able to complete the restructuring more quickly if BT were to go private. Despite all these and other challenges facing BT, the share price is said to have reached such a nadir that it is proving hard for potential suitors to resist.

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One comment

  1. Avatar Alistair watson 17/10/2020 @ 5:42 am

    Yes I Would bet big on an American private equity firm taking it over look how worthless sterling is. Also taking a the fact that a no deal Brexit is happening good buy BT

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