BT in talks to sell multi-billion-pound stake in Openreach – FT

(Reuters) – BT Group Plc (BT.L) is in talks to sell a multi-billion pound stake in its wholly-owned network subsidiary Openreach to infrastructure investors to help fund an ambitious expansion in fibre broadband, the Financial Times reported on Thursday.

The FT said potential investors, including Australian investment firm Macquarie Group Ltd (MQG.AX) and a sovereign wealth fund, had held talks in the last three weeks with the former telecoms monopoly.

Macquarie, however, was not interested in a deal, a source close to the investment firm told Reuters.

BT declined to comment on the FT report.

Upgrading Britain’s broadband network is the centerpiece of Chief Executive Philip Jansen’s strategy for the BT, but rolling out the fibre connections to 20 million premises by the mid to late 2020s will cost 12 billion pounds.

Shares in BT fell to 11-year lows, giving it a market capitalisation of 10 billion pounds, after the company cancelled its divided a week ago to help weather the economic impact of the coronavirus.

Jansen said the pandemic, which has seen a surge in the use of mobile phones and data, had made the network upgrade “a matter of extreme urgency”.

He said he was confident BT would strike a deal with the government and regulator to underpin the rate of return on the investment required for the plan.

Reporting by Aakriti Bhalla in Bengaluru and Paul Sandle and Pamela Barbaglia in London; Editing by Shailesh Kuber and Toby Chopra

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