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News UK holds talks over BT Sport stake

Rupert Murdoch’s News UK has quickly dropped out of talks over the future of BT Sports.

As BT Group PLC increasingly focusses on its high-speed fibre network it is in talks with a number of potential suitors for its sports broadcasting arm, which holds Premier League and Champions League broadcast rights.

An article in the Telegraph reported that talks had begun between BT and News UK, but, subsequently, The Sun and The Times publisher has clarified that the talks were only “early stage” and that they had sought only to “explore limited, commercial partnership opportunities.”

News UK is the latest rumoured suitor for the BT Sport business unit, which holds Premier League and Champions League broadcast rights.

The likes of ITV and fast-growing sports streaming app DAZN also recently also put in the frame.

It comes as BT Group focusses increasingly on its high-speed fibre broadband network.

BT is also operating with a major new stakeholder after French billionaire Patrick Drahi earlier this month spent some £2bn to acquire 12% of the British telco’s shares.

Drahi, vis his vehicle Altice, has a successful track record of deal-making and consolidation in the telecoms sector.

Altice is France’s second-largest mobile phone company and a significant player in the US.

It was formed and grown through a series of carefully selected acquisitions mostly using debt finance. A watershed was the 2013 acquisition of SFR, which was formerly a partner of and part-owned by Vodafone. Vivendi bought out Voda in 2011, before selling the business to Altice two years later.

By 2015, Altice bolstered the group further with the acquisition of US telcos Suddenlink Communications (a 70% stake) and Cablevision for S$9bn and US$18bn respectively, before merging the American units – today the combined group, Altice USA Inc (NYSE:ATUS), has a market cap of around US$16bn. Proactive Investors

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