BT faces £15bn network bid - report

'Rumour and speculation,' says telco

BT faces a £15bn bid for its UK network, The Observer reports.

Private equity groups such as Apax, Permira and Babcock & Brown could be getting ready to make a bid, according to the newspaper. The firms could make a bid for BT's network even if Ofcom doesn't rule in favour of a split, it claims.

The report, which does not cite sources, follows confirmation by the communications regulator, Ofcom, that it is considering the question of splitting BT as part of its review into the UK's telecoms sector.

A spokesman for BT dismissed the report as "rumour and speculation".

The idea of splitting BT's retail division from its network in a bid to increase competition is something that just won't go away. Describing it last week as an "old chestnut", BT said that "no other nation has contemplated the break-up of a former incumbent and the arguments against such a move are well rehearsed."

In 2001, German investment bank, West LB, offered £18 billion for BT's landline phone network. While Earthlease, a consortium led by Babcock & Brown and Chancery Lane Capital, bid £8 billion for BT's local loop, the wires that connect homes and businesses to its network.

At the time BT bosses said the network - or part of it - was not for sale. BT Retail chief exec, Pierre Danon, was "fiercely opposed" to any sale of the company's network adding that flogging the network would be the "most stupid thing you can do". ®

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