Altice selling stakes in French, Portuguese telecom towers to cut debt

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FILE PHOTO: Plastic pens with logos of Altice are pictured before a news conference in Paris
FILE PHOTO: Plastic pens with logos of Altice are pictured before a news conference in Paris, France March 20, 2018. REUTERS/Benoit Tessier/File Photo

June 20, 2018

PARIS (Reuters) – Dutch-based telecoms and cable group Altice plans to raise 2.5 billion euros ($2.9 billion) from selling stakes in its telecoms towers businesses in France and Portugal to reduce its debt, the company said on Wednesday.

The group, whose founder is billionaire Patrick Drahi, is restructuring to revive its fortunes after growing rapidly in recent years through a series of acquisitions.

The company plans to build up the towers businesses and boost revenues through the stake sales, it said.

Altice said it had entered an exclusivity agreement with U.S. firm KKR to form a new French company called SFR TowerCo, comprising 10,198 sites operated by Altice’s French subsidiary SFR. The private equity firm will have a 49.9 percent stake.

That deal, reported earlier by Reuters and expected to close in the fourth quarter of 2018, will also involve building 1,200 new towers, which Altice said would generate 250 million euros in proceeds for SFR within four years.

Altice’s Portuguese subsidiary will also sell a larger 75 percent chunk of a newly-formed Portuguese towers business, to be named Towers of Portugal (TOP), to Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and Horizon Equity Partners.

That business has 2,961 sites and includes an agreement for 400 new towers.

“We’re on the one hand hitting our objective to deleverage the group, and on the other we are pursuing our development in line with the priority that is our infrastructure strategy,” said Alain Weill, chief executive of Altice Europe.

He said proceeds from the agreements would go toward reducing the group’s 31 billion-euro debt pile in Europe.

Altice, whose debt equals more than twice its annual revenues, is finalizing a series of disposals, including its entire operations in the Dominican Republic.

Weill did not rule out the newly-formed towers businesses eventually being listed on the stock market.

The planned transaction values SFR TowerCo at an enterprise value of 3.6 billion euros.

“These are promising businesses,” Weill told journalists. But he said they had just been created and talk of a spin-off was premature.

Lazard and JPMorgan acted as advisers to Altice while Perella Weinberg Partners advised Morgan Stanley Infrastructure Partners and Horizon Equity Partners on the Portuguese towers deal.

(Reporting by Sarah White, Dominique Vidalon and Pamela Barbaglia; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Edmund Blair)

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