BT?s chief executive Peter Bonfield yesterday blamed shareholder reticence for the collapse of BT?s proposed marriage with MCI.
He told delegates at the opening of the annual Telecommunication Managers? Association (TMA) conference in Brighton, that major shareholders did not want BT to acquire the US telco when the price went above $50 per MCI share. BT had originally offered $32 per share, while Worldcom eventually won MCI?s hand for $51 per share.
He said: ?BT is regarded as a relatively stable risk of a stock and that is what our shareholders have invested in. They do not want us to get into too much risk and a market they regard as very risky.?
Bonfield said BT would use the $465 million break-up fee it will receive from MCI?s new parent Worldcom, plus the $51 per share it will get for its existing stake in the US carrier, to reinvest in Concert - its surviving joint venture with MCI - and possibly look for alternative US partners.
He said: ?We want to put a lot of investment in the UK market and we will be evaluating whether to make another investment in the US market over the next few weeks and months.?
Bonfield implied shareholders will have to accept a higher degree of risk in future. BT will continue to seek investments in areas where it is either starting from scratch or in a period of rapid change, he continued. For example, many of the company?s businesses in mainland Europe were set up before BT won licences to operate in the countries.
Bonfield was also at pains to quell fears that BT?s global ambitions were smashed by the collapse of the proposed merger with its biggest overseas partner, MCI. The Worldcom-MCI combination will become a non-exclusive distributor of Concert services to north American firms. Bonfield said BT wants to win other partners in the same area and in south America. ?We certainly have not given up on our global visions,? he said.
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