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French billionaire Drahi to face investors as graft claims swirl

French-Israeli billionaire Patrick Drahi is set to make a rare appearance in front of investors this week with his multinational business empire Altice in the grip of a corruption scandal. Swiss-based Drahi, whose empire spans telecoms and media in Europe, Israel and North America, is expected to try to ease investor concerns weeks after one of his top lieutenants was detained in Portugal.

The authorities there have accused Portuguese billionaire Armando Pereira of 11 offences of corruption and money laundering, with a central allegation that he set up a network of bogus suppliers to embezzle money through Altice’s procurement system.

Pereira denies the claims but the scandal has spread from Portugal to other parts of Drahi’s empire, with executives in the United States and France being dismissed, suspended or stepping back. Drahi, who generally keeps a low profile, has amassed a fortune estimated at more than $10 billion, making him France’s 13th richest man, according to the French magazine Challenge.

He pieced together a network of companies through leveraged acquisitions and is now a major player in telecoms in France, Israel, Belgium, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland. Drahi, who also owns broadband firm Altice USA and part of Britain’s BT, is known as an art lover and bought the auction house Sotheby’s in 2019. But his investment spree was made possible only by amassing a debt pile worth around $60 billion.

With interest rates rising and the corruption scandal making headlines, Drahi’s calls with investors on Monday and Tuesday will be closely monitored by investors. The company has tried to play down the investigation, saying it is cooperating with the authorities and highlighting that several employees have been suspended.

Source: eNCA

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