BT considers selling off Openreach

Published: 15 May 2020 - 7:45 a.m.

BT Group is reportedly in discussions with a number of interested parties over the potential sale of its stake in the UK’s biggest fixed line network operator, Openreach.

A report in The Financial Times claimed that Australian bank Macquarie and an unnamed sovereign wealth fund had held talks with BT earlier this week over a potential acquisition.

A deal for Openreach could net BT a sum in the region of £20 billion ($25 billion), which would help BT invest in its 5G rollout and plug a significant hole in its pension fund. The group’s pension liabilities currently stand at over £50 billion ($60 billion). The company also has net debt of around £18 billion ($22 billion).

Earlier this week, BT Group announced that it was suspending its shareholder dividend payments for two years, to enable it to steady the ship after the disruption caused by the Coronavirus pandemic and to invest in ramping its fibre to the home offering through Openreach.

Openreach currently provides fibre broadband access to 2.6 million UK homes and businesses but has plans to scale this up to over 15 million by the mid-2020s.

The news of BT’s potential divestment of its fixed line broadband subsidiary comes a week after O2 and Virgin Media announced that they would be combining their assets in the UK, in a deal worth around £20 billion.

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