New chairman of BT says telecoms giant is ‘prepared for anything’, as rules preventing its largest shareholder launching a takeover set to expire

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In the Hot Seat: BT President Adam Crozier

BT’s new chairman has said the telecom giant is ‘ready for anything’, as rules prevent its largest shareholder from launching a takeover this week.

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Patrick Drahi’s company Altice UK took a 12.1 percent stake in BT in June, valued at £2.2 billion. The six-month period that bars it from starting an acquisition under city rules expires on Saturday.

Sources told The Mail on Sunday that Adam Crozier, who joined the board last month, had already met with Drahi last Wednesday before he officially took the chair.

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Franco-Israeli telecom tycoon Drahi has backed BT’s strategy to introduce full-fibre broadband to 25 million homes by 2026. But their intentions are not clear and the minister is monitoring the situation.

Asked if Bt drahi is ready for the end of the lockdown, Crozier told the MoS: ‘We have a big agenda to deliver. And we need everyone in the company to focus completely on that.

‘Our job is to focus very aggressively on what we can do to make BT more successful – and then be prepared for anything that happens at any stage.’

The MoS reported last week that private equity firms including CVC and Apax and investment funds Brookfield and Macquarie ruled BT’s infrastructure arm Openreach would be ruled out if Drahi was forced to sell the division, which is valued at as much as £40 billion. . In response, shares rose on Monday. He was further encouraged by reports later that day, which speculated that India’s Reliance Industries was weighing a takeover.

The oil-to-telecom conglomerate controlled by India’s richest man Mukesh Ambani later denied it had “any intention to bid”.

Ended the week up nine percent at 1.68 pounds.

Former Royal Mail, ITV and Football Association boss Crozier replaces Jan du Plessis, who retired amid reports of tensions with CEO Philippe Jansson over the pace of change at BT. In his first public remarks since taking the job, Crozier said: ‘These are huge goals in terms of the rollout of fiber and 5G. Delivering it on time, or ideally faster than the time and budget is no trivial feat.

He said: ‘What we do matters to the country, the economy, our customers and the people. There is a lot to be done in terms of transforming the company and what we do. Crozier declined to comment on the relationship with Drahi or plans for Openreach.

KKR’s €33 billion (£28 billion) bid for Telecom Italia has sparked a new flurry of acquisition speculation in the telecom sector. Infrastructure assets capable of delivering reliable returns have proved particularly attractive.

However, the complexities surrounding BT and Openreach’s pension plans and potential political interference are seen as hindering any deal in the city.

• Meanwhile, this weekend it emerged that potential Openreach suitor CVC is eyeing stock market volatility. The Sunday Times said a float fund giant of Six Nations and RAC breakdown recovery firm could be valued at more than £11 billion. Such IPOs are likely to face intense scrutiny after a wave of criticism over private equity ownership.

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