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Digicel aims to slash debt burden

Digicel is aiming to shave $1.7 billion off its $7 billion debt burden through a debt restructuring which could eventually result in creditors owning nearly half the company.

The telecommunications group, which has operations in 32 markets including Bermuda, said it is looking for current investors in a series of bonds, including $1.3 billion of notes that are due next April, to exchange their securities for bonds of lower value.

The biggest haircuts are being asked of bondholders who agreed only last year to delay the return of their principal.

The debt restructuring will cut Digicel's annual interest payments by about $130 million.

“Despite many years of significant investment in its world-class networks and infrastructure and solid underlying performances across its markets, Digicel's current debt levels remain high,” Digicel said in a statement.

“Digicel has indicated for some time its commitment to reducing its debt to more sustainable levels and the tender offers and consent solicitations are a key step in that process.”

In addition to reduced interest, the company said the restructuring would “extend its maturities, which will provide increased liquidity and flexibility to access additional liquidity during the next year”.

Digicel is owned by Irishman Dennis O'Brien. The Irish Times reported that two categories of bondholders are being offered, as an incentive to sign up to the deal, a total of $200 million of convertible notes in a new company called Digicel Group 0.5 Ltd, which will ultimately own its assets across the Caribbean, Asia Pacific and Central American markets.

These bonds would be convertible into a 49 per cent stake in the empire if they remain outstanding three years after the debt restructuring, according to documents relating to the deal.

The paper reported that Mr O'Brien had offered to pump about $50 million of fresh equity into the group under the debt overhaul plan, comprising $25 million in cash and the group's Jamaican headquarters, which he owns and is valued at $25 million.

Earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation rose by 4 per cent year-on-year to $251 million in the third quarter of Digicel's financial year, to the end of March.

This was driven by more favourable currency movements in some of its main markets against the dollar, and ongoing data revenue growth, which has offset declining voice sales in its mobile division.

Digicel has spent $6 billion developing its networks and the business has 14 million subscribers. Mr O'Brien took at least $1.9 billion of disclosed dividends out of the group between 2007 and 2015.

Financial restructuring: Digicel owner Denis O'Brien

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Published April 07, 2020 at 9:00 am (Updated April 06, 2020 at 10:03 pm)

Digicel aims to slash debt burden

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