BT's hopes of buying US telecoms giant MCI Communications came to a final and abrupt end last week after an increased takeover bid of $37 billion (#22.5 billion) from WorldCom completed the biggest corporate merger in US history. BT may be disappointed in the final outcome of the deal, but has landed a tidy profit of #1.4 billion on its 20% stake in MCI. Shares in the company shot up 2.4% following the news. The stake was sold to WorldCom for approximately #4.14 billion or #30.2 per share in cash. BT will also collect a #275 million break-up fee which is payable immediately. After the WorldCom deal was accepted by MCI, BT bought out the latter's 24.9% stake in Concert Communications Services, its joint venture with MCI serving multinational companies. Sir Peter Bonfield, chief executive of BT, said: "BT remains strongly positioned and has many opportunities to pursue alternative alliances in the US. For our customers, MCI will remain our Concert distributor in the US and continuity of high quality services is ensured." Speculation now points to several US telcos as potential partners for BT, including Sprint and AT&T. "BT will have to do some early Christmas shopping," commented John Lilley, senior industry analyst at Dataquest. Lilley believes the loss of BT's would-be partner is an excellent opportunity "to link up with another, more established US carrier".
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