Markets wait for BT to sell Yell

BT's planned sell-off gets rolling under Bland...

BT's planned sell-off gets rolling under Bland...

The long-awaited break-up of BT should begin in earnest today, with the sale of its directory business, Yell. Reports link Yell with two private equity firms, Apax Partners and Hicks Muse Tate and Furst. The deal is expected to be announced this afternoon, with a value in the range of £2bn, less than the £3bn which had originally been hoped for. The value of the deal has been hit by the recent announcement of government price caps on the cost of Yell's advertising prices, as the group is seen to have a monopoly position in the UK classified advertising market. The break-up of BT, essential to revive the debt-laden group, was continually stalled under the leadership of Sir Iain Vallance, but the arrival of the new chairman Sir Christopher Bland has unblocked the process. Shortly after Bland took over, BT sold up its interests in Spain and Japan, and announced a long expected rights issue, in a bid to tackle its £30bn debt. The rights issue went on sale on Monday, falling 30 per cent in three days. Hedge funds have been putting downward pressure on the price in the hope of increasing their shares in BT cheaply when unexercised options are auctioned off next month, according to David Rough, investment director of Legal & General, quoted in the Daily Mail. BT would not comment on this story.