Billionaire Patrick Drahi is considering selling stakes in the carriers he controls in France and Portugal among several options for reducing the debt pile at his telecommunications empire Altice.
(Bloomberg) — Billionaire Patrick Drahi is considering selling stakes in the carriers he controls in France and Portugal among several options for reducing the debt pile at his telecommunications empire Altice.
Altice France Chief Executive Officer Arthur Dreyfuss, who runs the group’s biggest unit, said in a meeting with employee representatives on Thursday that advisers have been hired in “all geographies” to consider selling equity stakes or debt, people familiar with the matter said.
He added that the company was already refinancing French fiber construction unit XpFibre and that the sale of data centers in France and Portugal would be completed this autumn, according to the people, who asked not to be identified because the meeting was not public.
Lenders to Drahi’s sprawling empire have been scrutinizing efforts to reduce the companies’ heavy debt loads, in the face of a surge in borrowing costs and looming debt maturities. The network of businesses includes Altice France, Altice International — which has operations in Portugal, Israel and the Dominican Republic — as well as the listed Altice USA.
Dreyfuss said that Altice regularly appointed advisers to carry out strategic reviews in its markets, according to the people.
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The comments come after reports this week in the French press about possible asset and stake sales. Newspaper Les Echos reported on Wednesday that Altice is in advanced negotiations to sell its 92 data centers in France to Morgan Stanley, a deal that would be valued at about €1 billion ($1.1 billion).
Le Monde reported on Thursday that Altice gave a mandate to Lazard and BNP to consider selling a stake of French carrier SFR. Lazard is also working on options for Altice Portugal, while Morgan Stanley and Goldman Sachs are in charge of ad-tech company Teads and a Dominican Republic carrier, according to Le Monde.
Altice, Morgan Stanley, BNP, Lazard and Goldman Sachs declined to comment on the reports.
Altice France and Altice International bonds rose following the reports, with Altice France notes maturing in 2029 poised for their largest daily advance since they were issued in 2020. Altice France’s euro-denominated term loan due in 2025 have also moved higher in the last several days and were bid at 95 cents on Thursday, according to StoneX.
Drahi has been speaking with investors this week after a summer wrestling with the fallout from a criminal corruption probe in Portugal targeting key figures connected to Altice. He hosted a non-deal roadshow in London on Wednesday and is expected to answer questions from investors about Altice USA in New York on Thursday.
In London, he said that the prospects for selling SFR or merging it with a competitor depend on how EU regulators treat a proposed joint venture between France’s Orange SA and Spain’s Masmovil Ibercom SA.
–With assistance from Alexandre Rajbhandari.
(Updates with Goldman no comment in the eighth paragraph.)
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