In the course of one of my recent blog entries I contrasted the BT claim (at a PICTFOR meeting) that it was not a utility but a new and innovative business with an investment analysts comment that it was “a profitable infrastucture construction and management business being milked by an eclectic mix of unprofitable add-ons … [and] …a legacy pension fund” and should be valued as a break-up target. It may have been that analysis that lies behind the recent sharp rise in the BT share price.
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The Liberty take-over bid values Virgin at £15 billion (albeit getting cheaper as sterling slides). BT’s market capitalisation, even after the recent share rise, is barely 50% more. Will we soon see a bid from AT&T or Verizon to counter Liberty’s creation of a global ubiquitous broadband operator occupying the space denied to News International when the News of the World fiasco blocked their planned swoop on Cable & Wireless? If not, will it be because potential bidders perceive too many poison pills linked to the pension funds and BT’s position as part of the UK critical national infrastructure (including defence and surveillance)?
Either way, the Liberty take-over should cause us to take a new look at the UK Broadband and Communications markets (business as well as entertainment) – as seen through market eyes – rather than the current mix of regulatory myopia and political tunnel vision.