Altice founder speaks of ‘shock’ of investigation into Portugal unit

  • Lusa
  • 7 August 2023

Following the 'Operation Picoas' investigation in Portugal, the company "immediately" placed 15 people on leave in Portugal, France and the United States.

Patrick Drahi, founder of the Altice group, which owns Meo, Portugal’s leading telecommunications brand, on Monday described as “a shock and a great disappointment” the investigation involving Altice Portugal and stressed that if “these allegations are true” he will feel “betrayed and deceived” by those involved.

The statements were the first by Drahi, still the largest shareholder of the Altice group, and were made on an online call with bondholders.

The investigation, Drahi started by saying, “was a shock and a big disappointment for me.”

At the centre of the investigation is Armando Pereira, a France-based businessman of Portuguese origin, who jointly founded Altice with French-Israeli-Portuguese billionaire Drahi, and who was until recently adviser to the CEO and executive committee of Altice France.

“If these allegations are true, I feel betrayed and misled by a small group of individuals, including one of our most senior colleagues,” Drahi added.

15 Altice staff in country, France, US on leave due to investigation

Following ‘Operation Picoas’, which involves the group’s Portuguese subsidiary co-founder Armando Pereira, “we immediately placed 15 employees on leave in Portugal, France, and the United States”, added the Franco-Israeli-Portuguese billionaire, in a call with bondholders via online.

“We have asked all our CEOs to implement a number of measures including suspending payments and purchases from entities potentially implicated in the judicial investigation” and “we have made adjustments in our local organisations” and to arrange alternative suppliers to avoid “any significant impact”.

In terms of financial impacts, “we expect that our historical financials will not be impacted”, nor changes to liquidity, nor guidance for Altice International this year.

He labelled it “unpleasant” to see “the word corruption next to the name” of the Altice group and “in many media articles next to” its name. “Note that our group is the victim and not the accused,” he emphasised.

Since 19 July, Ana Figueiredo has accumulated the position of chairwoman of Altice Portugal with that of chief executive officer (CEO), after Alexandre Fonseca suspended his duties in the context of the group’s executive and non-executive management activities in several locations, including the positions of chairman in several subsidiaries, including Altice Portugal, as well as the director of Altice Portugal João Zúquete da Silva, who had the heritage area.

Armando Pereira’s son-in-law, Yossi Benchetrit, responsible for purchasing and real estate at Altice USA, is also on leave.