Pertes & profits. France and Europe are sorely lacking in the digital and technology giants of tomorrow, but they remain well endowed with financial artists. You don’t have to be a visionary genius, you just have to smell the good deals before others and boldly manage an inherently plentiful portfolio. The billionaire Vincent Bolloré is the most famous of these acrobats, always on the edge, with a thousand ideas in mind and an opportunism that allow him to implement those that suit the present moment, playing on the effect of surprise.
This is also the case for Patrick Drahi, the founder of Altice, owner, in France, of SFR. But unlike the Breton businessman, very eclectic in his investments, he, as a good telecom engineer, likes only one object: the cable. Even if it is present in the media, notably with BFM in France, the heart of its empire revolves around these copper or optical fiber coils that are buried at great expense to provide television and Internet to millions of people. homes. It is present in France, Portugal, Israel and the United States. And, to general amazement, he announced, Thursday, June 10, its entry into the capital of BT, the former British Telecom and the UK’s leading telephone operator.
For an investment estimated at nearly 2.5 billion euros for 12% of the capital, it suddenly became the largest shareholder of the former national company of the United Kingdom, on par with its German counterpart, Deutsche Telekom.
At the time of Brexit, Patrick Drahi, who like all financiers knows London like the back of his hand, has chosen to cross the Channel. The time is right. BT has embarked on a vast land-based fiber optic cabling scheme to bring high-speed internet to as many UK homes as possible. With only 15% of the wired population, the United Kingdom is lagging far behind, in comparison with other European countries, such as France (73%), or Portugal, which the Altice subsidiary has bundled with more by 80%.
The potential is all the more promising as Boris Johnson has promised to make up for this delay by granting more than 5 billion euros in subsidies. BT is engaged in a large and expensive equipment program and is looking for allies to support it. Patrick Drahi offers his international expertise, but most of all BT needs financial support.
In this area, the Franco-Israeli boss masters the art of debt and its restructuring of all kinds. That of Altice Europe exceeds 28 billion euros, which did not prevent it from spending 3 billion euros out of his pocket to withdraw the company from the Stock Exchange in January. Of course, his companies are legally separated, between his European, Israeli, American and British branches, but they are all his property. Also, for him, as for all the acrobats of finance, business life works like the bicycle, it only finds its stability in movement. Beware of road accidents.