Deutsche Telekom CEO 'open' to raising BT stake - FT

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By Geoffrey Smith -- Shares in BT Group (LON:BT) rose in London on Monday after Deutsche Telekom (ETR:DTEGn) chief executive Tim Höttges told the Financial Times that he’s “open” to raising the German telecom giant’s stake in its struggling British counterpart.

In an interview, Höttges also mooted the possibility of partnering with another big stakeholder in BT, an apparent nod to Patrick Drahi’s Altice Group (NYSE:ATUS), which has already amassed an 18% stake in BT.

Drahi has indicated he wants to raise that stake, but is being frustrated by a new U.K. law that classifies BT and its infrastructure as a critical national security asset.

Höttges implicitly distanced himself from a future in which DT and Altice would vie for influence over the British company, criticizing the state of affairs at rival Vodafone (LON:VOD), where three strategic shareholders have accumulated various stakes.

He warned that such an approach could be “very bad for customers, very bad for the sovereignty of Europe, (and) very bad for infrastructure.”

As such, his comments appeared to indicate that DT and Altice would either pool their stakes, or one would seek to buy the other out.

Deutsche Telekom acquired its 12.5% stake in BT back in 2015, when Höttges agreed to accept BT shares as payment for its interest in mobile provider EE. The shares have since lost over two-thirds of their value, more than £4 billion (£1 = $1.1981).

He said that decision was his “biggest mistake” and told the FT: “I want my money back.”

BT stock rose 1.7% in London by 05:45 ET (10:45 GMT) in response to the comments, outperforming a FTSE 100 index that was up by 0.8%.

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