Deutsche Telekom hints at bid for BT in 2019
Deutsche Telekom CEO Höttges says BT ‘attractive’ a year before embargo on bid expires
Deutsche Telekom may still be interested in bidding for BT when the embargo on buying or selling shares runs out in two years’ time.
The German company’s CEO, Tim Höttges, who is on BT’s board, praised the UK incumbent’s fixed and mobile integration strategy as well as its content strategy.
“They are a very attractive company,” said Höttges in answer to a question from Global Telecoms Business at the Mobile World Congress event in Barcelona today.
Deutsche Telekom has been the largest shareholder in BT for two years, ever since BT bought mobile operator EE – previously a Deutsche Telekom/Orange joint venture. Under the terms of the takeover, which left Deutsche Telekom with a 14% stake, the company cannot sell its shares or buy more until the beginning of 2019.
Deutsche Telekom has seen the value of its stake in BT fall over the past few years – partly because of the financial performance of the UK operator but also because the UK pound has fallen in value against the euro.
In May 2016 BT’s its shares were trading at around £4.52 each. At the pound/euro exchange rate at the time, each BT share Deutsche Telekom owned was worth €5.92. Today BT’s shares are worth £2.42 each, but the fall in the value of the pound means that is equivalent to €2.74 each, just 46% of their value two years ago.
A private source told Global Telecoms Business before the 2016 deal was completed that Deutsche Telekom would want to buy BT as soon as it could. The same person said that Höttges would take a non-executive role on BT’s board – something that both companies officially denied but later proved to be true.
Today in Barcelona, Höttges praised BT’s strategy in the fixed/mobile convergence world, and its shared belief in using “the best bearers” to connect customers, he said.
“When you look at the competition in the UK, some are fixed, and some are mobile,” but only BT does both, he said. “On top of that BT has a great content strategy.”
Meanwhile Höttges lamented the fact that a proposed merger between T-Mobile US, which it controls, and Sprint, controlled by SoftBank, failed last year for the second time.
“It would have enabled us to challenge the establishment,” he said, meaning AT&T and Verizon. “But you need two to dance and it wasn’t time to dance.”