Regulators put pressure on BT’s Yell

The yellow pages business of British Telecom, courted by private equity firms Hicks Muse and Apax, has been told by UK Office of Fair Trading to lower advertising fees.

The future of Yell, the yellow pages business put up for sale by British Telecommunications Plc as part of its debt reduction programme, remains in the balance after the Office of Fair Trading asked for advertising fees to be reduced.

The request comes after an extensive period of investigation by UK authorities and is likely to impact that position of private equity firms Apax Partners and Hicks, Muse, Tate & Furst, which are thought to be first in line to buy the subsidiary. It is expected that Yell may fetch up to £3bn.

Linked to retail price inflation, Yell's fees are currently capped at Retail Price Index -2. “BT is being asked to cap the fees at Retail Price Index -6 for four years from January 2002”, the Office of Fair Trading said in a statement.

BT has not commented on the announcement.