STOCK WATCH: Is the shadowy billionaire ready to announce changes at Openreach?

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Could a French telecoms billionaire surround BT’s Openreach arm? The murmur from the city gutter is that the secret Patrick Drahi has set his sights on the division that maintains UK telephone lines and internet cables.

Drahi, a powerful trader, now resides in Switzerland but made his fortune in France by building the Altice telecommunications groups.

Rumor has it that one of the Altice companies Drahi controls – possibly Altice USA – has secured financial backing from heavy bankers at JP Morgan to pay £ 20bn for the unit.

The murmur of the city is that the secret Patrick Drahi has set his sights on Openreach

Altice Europe and Altice USA insisted that there was no truth in the speculation. But city gossip claims Drahi might even consider a hostile approach if BT is unwilling to negotiate.

Drahi, however, may have competition for Openreach. In May, reports suggested Australia’s investment bank Macquarie was interested in Openreach, as was Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund, the Public Investment Fund.

All of this can be music to investors’ ears, as earlier this year BT was forced to cut its dividend for the first time since 1984.

BT last night declined to comment.

Hastings

Shares of auto insurer Hastings rose last week after its largest shareholder, South African Rand Merchant Holdings, partnered with Finnish insurer Sampo to make a buyout approach.

The duo have yet to make a formal offer, which added additional significance to Hastings’ first half results on Wednesday. Peel Hunt scribblers made a pre-tax profit of £ 58million for the period, up 26% from a year ago, helped by a drop in claims as motorists drove less during the lockdown.

A solid set of results could help Hastings reject any potential offer – or help him make a case for a decent price.

Ibstock

Investors in Britain’s largest bricklayer will find out how tough business was during the lockdown when they release first-half results on Thursday.

With work halted at the height of the coronavirus outbreak, analysts expect a mediocre set of financial figures for Ibstock as a result.

And the foreclosure could even push the company into a first half loss, they say. The key to the share price will be how the company thinks business is going over the next few months.

The first signs of a robust recovery could lay the groundwork for a stock price rebound.

OKYO Pharma

Keep an eye out for the OKYO Pharma stock minnow in the coming days.

The Mail on Sunday understands that a well-respected healthcare executive is about to join the company, which should help the group in the development of a successful dry eye treatment.

The rhetoric is that OKYO Pharma’s treatment could compete with Restasis, which is owned by drug giant Allergan.

Last week the company raised £ 3.5million by issuing convertible loan notes. OKYO Pharma shares closed at 14.75 pence after another strong week, but some believe shares may continue to climb.

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