Orange has sold one-third of its shareholding in BT as it looks to reduce the stake it amassed in the UK incumbent as part of the sale of EE.

The France-based operator has also announced plans to launch an offering of four-year bonds worth £520 million that are exchangeable for BT shares in a further attempt to reduce its stake.

The initial sale concerns 133 million shares that Orange subsidiary Atlas Services Belgium owns in BT.

The UK-based operator is to spend £200 million on buying back shares from this sale as it looks to offset the maturing of employee share option plans.

The French telco acquired a four percent stake in BT as part of the £12.5 billion deal to sell its 50 percent share of EE to the UK operator last year.

Deutsche Telekom, which owned the other 50 percent, chose to keep a 12 percent stake in BT.

The share sale sees Orange’s stake drop to 2.33 percent, but should it exchange all of the bonds into shares as well, its stake will fall to 1.33 percent in 2021.

Orange said the proceeds of both transactions would be used for “general corporate purposes”.

The operator recorded a two percent increase in EBITDA, to €2.6 billion, on like-for-like revenues that grew 0.8 percent to €10 billion in the first three months of the year.

BT, meanwhile, is still rocking from an accounting scandal at its Italian arm.

The UK company announced plans to axe 4,000 jobs last month as pre-tax profits slumped 19 percent to £2.35 billion in the  12 months to March.

Read more: Brexit could hamper R&D, warns Patterson, as BT showcases 100GBps fibre

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