Openreach boss would back selling minority stake to the right investor

The boss of BT’s network arm would back selling a minority stake in the business – if the investor supports rolling out fibre broadband across the UK.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley has admitted that his division was a ‘big drag’ on spending, and his comments will fuel speculation that BT could strike a deal next year, after group boss Philip Jansen said he was ‘open-minded’ about one last month.

Selley said: ‘What I need from BT is backing on my big fibre deployment, because that’s the future of this business and to date, they have backed me and they have committed to big-scale investments. But I am a big drag on their investments.

Openreach chief executive Clive Selley has admitted that his division was a ‘big drag’ on spending

‘I spend more than half of the capital expenditure in the BT Group, when I am just one business out of four.

‘What I have been assured of by [Jansen] and the chairman [Jan du Plessis], is that they see Openreach as a core business of BT… and they would want to retain majority control.

‘What I care about is: Does the owner back our transformation programme to switch Britain over to fibre?

‘That is my strategy. Whether I liked a minority owner would depend on whether they back that strategy.’

He disagreed with MPs who doubt most homes will have fibre broadband by 2025. He said: ‘We could do it by March 2026. I would encourage the Government not to go soft on their ambition.’

Reports this year have suggested BT was looking to raise cash from Openreach, which has been valued at £20billion on its own, and provides network services to firms like Sky and Talktalk.

It is operated at arm’s length to ensure it treats BT’s competitors fairly.

Jansen has said a decision to sell a minority stake would most likely rest on the regulatory decisions in the new year.