BT (LSE: BT.A) shares have been on a tear over the past year. Investors who were savvy enough to buy the stock in June 2020 have seen a return of 74%.
The stock’s performance has accelerated in recent months, and it seems there are a couple of reasons why.
The most important was the announcement that French telecoms tycoon Patrick Drahi had acquired 12.1% of the enterprise. The billionaire paid around £2.2bn for the stake, making him the company’s largest shareholder.
BT shares: A large buyer
Drahi is well-known and respected in the telecoms industry. Over the past few decades, he has built up a global telecoms conglomerate with operations spanning the world. At times, his growth strategy has been incredibly aggressive. He is known for savage cost cuts and financial engineering to squeeze every last penny out of his companies.
This strategy might sound over the top, but it has worked. Drahi’s net worth is estimated at nearly $12bn.
The billionaire has built his empire over the years by acquiring assets at depressed prices and then using his experience and connections to improve operating performance.
I think it likely he will do the same with the BT. The company has been searching for a partner to help build its fibre broadband network across the UK. It wants to connect 25m households by 2026, a huge undertaking that will cost billions.
Drahi and his portfolio of companies could provide some of this capital. That would help BT and may even lead to further partnerships down the road.
As we have seen over the past few weeks, his involvement has already positively impacted BT shares and investor sentiment towards the company.
Indeed, it seems the market is now waking up to the fact that BT is a terribly undervalued asset. For example, some analysts have estimated that its Openreach division alone could be worth as much as £30bn.
However, at the time of writing, the company has a market capitalisation of just £20bn. This implies the enterprise could be worth multiples of its current value if it were broken up and sold.
A value investment
Unfortunately, it is unlikely this will happen. The government has taken steps recently to prevent the takeover of critically important infrastructure assets in the UK by overseas investors.
They would likely block any attempt by a foreign party to take over BT. At the same time, the sector is highly regulated. This suggests the company’s options may be limited when it comes to growth, diversification and overseas collaborations.
Nevertheless, I believe that after years of treading water, the company is now back on the right trajectory. What is more, considering the stock’s market value compared to the value of its assets, I think BT shares are undervalued at the current price.
As such, I would buy the stock from my portfolio today as its growth heats up.
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Rupert Hargreaves has no position in any of the shares mentioned. The Motley Fool UK has no position in any of the shares mentioned. Views expressed on the companies mentioned in this article are those of the writer and therefore may differ from the official recommendations we make in our subscription services such as Share Advisor, Hidden Winners and Pro. Here at The Motley Fool we believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors.