A call-in notice for a full national security assessment of the acquisition of 6% of shares in British fixed line incumbent BT has been ordered by the UK’s Business Secretary, Kwasi Kwarteng. In a press release issued by the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), the government body noted that it has powers under the National Security and Investment Act 2021 to scrutinise and – if necessary – intervene in qualifying acquisitions on national security grounds.
The development comes after it was revealed in December 2021 that Altice UK – a company formed by Franco-Israeli businessman Patrick Drahi for the purpose of holding a stake in the British communications provider – has increased its interest in BT’s voting share capital from 12.1% to 18.0%. Previously, in June 2021 Altice UK had announced its acquisition of a 12.1% holding in the British operator, becoming its largest shareholder in the process; at the time of the announcement the stake was reported to be valued at around GBP2.2 billion (USD2.76 billion)..
According to BEIS, the government now has 30 working days – extendable by up to a further 45 working days – to carry out its assessment. In response to the matter, meanwhile, BT issued its own statement, in which it said it would ‘fully cooperate with this review’.