Yell sold for £2.14bn

What a palaver

Cash-strapped BT today confirmed that it has sold Yell for £2.14 billion.

BT will use the money from the sale - which is considerably less than BT had hoped to get - to reduce its £28 billion debt mountain.

Part of the reason for the lower price tag lies in the recent announcement by the Office of Fair Trading (OFT) that will force Yell to cap ad rate increases in its UK Yellow Pages business at RPI (Retail Price Index) minus 6 per cent for four years from January 2002.

The inflation-busting price cap is far tougher than the RPI minus 2 per cent price cap which is currently in place.

The international directories and e-commerce business has been bought by a newly formed company jointly owned by funds advised or controlled by Apax Partners & Co Ventures Limited and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst.

Sir Christopher Bland, BT's new-broom chairman said: "The sale of Yell is good for BT and its shareholders."

Of course, that depends on you definition of "good".

BT's share price fell 8.75pence (1.95 per cent) to 439.25pence by mid morning.

Elsewhere, its been reported that BT is looking at new ways to raise revenue and reduce debt.

The Telegraph claims BT is investigating plans to deliver TV programmes and the Net using its telephone network, something it's been prevented from doing since it was privatised in 1984. The ban was lifted earlier this year, said a BT spokesman, who said that while it was one of a number of ideas being considered.

And the Independent claims BT is looking at becoming a utilities reseller by flogging water, gas and electricity.

If these ideas are already being discussed, then it can only be a matter of time before BT decides to hold a fund raising summer fete. Sir Chris could be sponsored to have his head shaved; punters could pay 50p-a-go to throw wet sponges at CEO Sir Peter Bonfield. And there'd be no shortage of BT old tat for the white elephant stall. ®

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