UK Politics

BT is in private equitys crosshairs but who else might be in the snipers lens?


Last weekend we were told by the ever-reliable Mark Kleinman of Sky News that BT Group PLC (LON:BT.A) could be on the receiving end of a bid from the private equity sector worth £15bn.

The shares rallied but arent exactly pricing in the upside, which suggests the City is giving little credence either to the purported takeover approach, let alone its chance of success.

It seems BTs Philip Jansen and his team have taken the behind-the-scenes machinations a little more seriously.

Goldman Sachs was reportedly brought in to help shore up the telcos bid defences alongside advisory firm Robey Warshaw.

BTs team are probably right to start manning battlements.

There is a near record amount of private equity money undeployed and very few potential bargains out there for the usually opportunistic buyout firms.

According to Preqin, a firm that tracks deals in the PE sector, US$1.48tn, more the GDP of Spain, is sloshing around the system looking for a home.

BT, which has lost 44% of its value in the year to date, stands out because it fits the PE mould perfectly.

Based on its historic share price it looks oversold, its infrastructure business, Openreach, has a monopoly position, while the sector itself is ripe for consolidation.

And, as Wall Street bank Citi, pointed out: “Unlike the public market, the private markets tend to appreciate the longer-term benefits of guaranteed cash flows generated after the completion of fibre-to-the-home rollout, especially in an environment with low interest rates.”

The fibre-to-the-home rollout project is worth a mention, not just because of the financial commitment (£12bn), but the fact it brings with it a great deal of government and media scrutiny. So, buyer beware.

The surprise at this stage is not that BT is in the crosshairs, but how few other opportunities there are on the FTSE 100.

Deep value opportunities are offered by British Airways owners IAG (LON:IAG) and Rolls Royce (LON:RR.), which have lost 69% and 61% respectively since the downturn.

But while they may be in bargain territory, the risks are also huge.

Both are relying on an upsurge in the travel industry in the next few years (not a given), are cash poor (not a good look for PE) andpose a refinancing risk.

ITV (LON:ITV), off 59%, may well be attracting some sideways glances – but more likely from within the media industry than from private equity (though never say never on that score).

Scrolling through the list of this years biggest Footsie losers, its hard to see anything else that lights up the way BT does.

The banks, down between, 40-55%, would likely receive the barge-pole treatment given their huge balance sheets and penchant for self-harm.

The remainder of the blue-chip big losers are either cyclical plays or focused on industries in structural decline such as tobacco.

One laggard that may fitRead More – Source