What's in BT's bargain bin?

The great telecoms sale

BT is returning to its roots. Sir Peter Bonfield accepted at a press conference this morning for the company's annual results that BT's global plan of a few years ago has been flushed down the toilet.

"We had a very big global ambition for BT. But now we've looked at it and said it is beyond our financial means at this moment in time," he said.

What this means is a great big global sale of all the little bits and bobs that the telecoms giant mistakenly bought in the hope that a finger in every pie would make for a financial feast.

It has already sold its stakes in Japan Telecom, J-Phone, Airtel and Maxis. These were the biggest lot and were done first to give a strong impression that BT was attacking its debt problem. At the conference, it also alluded to selling its stakes in others.

Pressed by an Italian reporter, the BT board agreed they were looking to sell Italian mobile operator Blu but keep its shares in Albacom (Internet services) and ENet (ISP).

It then became almost a guessing game over which shares were up for sale. It's keeping Cegetel (France) and there's no doubt it will stick with Esat (Ireland), Telfort (Netherlands) and Viag Interkom (Germany). The rest - including Asian properties - appear to be up for grabs.

And don't even mention Concert in the States. The joint venture with AT&T has been a disaster from the start and is currently losing £250 million a quarter. The BT board is still coming out with the "we are looking a range of options" guff that it has farted out for at least the last year.

So, if you are interested in buying any minority BT stakes outside the UK, get on the blower and have a word with Phillip Hampton. ®

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