BT Group Plc (BT) shares are likely to be active at the start of trading Tuesday after France's Orange SA (ORAN) said late last night that it has dumped around half of its stake in the U.K. telecoms incumbent.
Orange said in a statement late Monday that it sold around 133 million BT shares in a private placement -- with around half of that being taken up by BT's employee trust -- in a move that reduced its stake to 1.33% from 2.66% and could net it around $1.15 billion if a corresponding bond offer, which is exchangeable into BT shares, is taken up. Orange sold its BT shares at 288 pence each.
"Orange has taken a balanced approach which allows it to reduce the Group's exposure to BT," the company said. "While keeping exposure to a potential future share price increase through its residual stake.
BT shares have fallen more than 24% since the group trimmed its profit guidance on January 24 and cautioned that writedowns in its Italian business linked to accounting irregularities will be much larger than expected.
BT also said at the time that, owing to "pressures in the UK public sector and international corporate markets", it now expects flat revenue underlying revenue growth in the 2016/2017 fiscal year and adjusted EBIDTA of around £7.6 billion ($9.7 billion) from a previous guidance of £7.9 billion.
Earnings for the 2017/2018 year would be "flat" compared to the previous, BT said, with normalized free-cash of between £3 billion and £3.2 billion, a figure that also falls shy of the company's previous forecast.
BT shares fell more than 1.5% at the opening bell in London to change hands at 284.75 pence each, near the lowest of the year, extending the month-to-date decline to around 6.5%.