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BT Says U.K. Govt Has Decided to Allow Altice's Stake Raise to 18%

By Geoffrey Smith -- French billionaire Patrick Drahi will be allowed by the British government to keep his stake in BT Group (LON:BT) at 18%, the U.K. telecoms group said on Wednesday.

Kwasi Kwarteng, the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, had said in May he would exercise his power to review Drahi's action to raise his stake in the group from 12% for national security implications, effectively giving himself a veto over Drahi's stakebuilding.

"BT Group has now been notified by the Secretary of State that no further action is to be taken," the group said.

Drahi's move had prompted speculation of a possible full takeover bid for a company whose share price has languished in recent years as it has gradually ceded market share in media and broadband provision. Drahi had said at the time that he was "fully supportive" of the current board.

BT shares have fallen nearly 20% since Kwarteng announced the review, as the outlook for the U.K. economy, from which the group draws the bulk of its revenue, has darkened considerably. Surging energy prices and the highest inflation in 40 years have left consumers' disposable income increasingly stretched.

BT stock opened up 1.5% in London after hitting a two-week low on Monday.

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