Sweden’s Viaplay to raise cash, restructure debt, shares plunge 82%

By Marta Frackowiak and Terje Solsvik

OSLO (Reuters) -Viaplay shares tumbled by as much as 82% on Friday as the struggling Swedish streaming group said it would raise new equity and restructure its debt in a rescue plan that would sharply dilute the holdings of existing owners.

Under pressure to stabilise its business as rising living costs dent consumer demand, Viaplay in June replaced its CEO and has repeatedly warned of a weakening business environment that has sent its shares plunging.

The company said layoffs had exceeded the 25% indicated earlier this year.

“We unfortunately had to (let) go of more than 30% of our workforce,” Chief Executive Jorgen Madsen Lindemann told Reuters.

Viaplay said in a statement it aimed to raise 4 billion Swedish crowns ($380 million) in new equity, write down 2 billion crowns in debt and renegotiate the terms of debt totalling 14.6 billion crowns.

“This extensive package and operational measures are absolutely necessary to secure the survival of the company, and this marks a new beginning for Viaplay Group,” board Chair Simon Duffy said.

The recapitalisation was “the best available solution to enable rebuilding of a healthy financial position”, Lindemann told analysts.

Norwegian media group Schibsted, which earlier this year bought a 10.1% stake in Viaplay, said it viewed the situation as more challenging than had been expected at the time of the investment.

Schibsted was thus “carefully evaluating all its options”, a spokesperson for the company said.

Viaplay’s shares were down 74% at 6.2 crowns at 1103 GMT, taking the year-to-date drop to 97%. The group has lost around 41 billion Swedish crowns ($3.9 billion) in value since the stock’s all-time high in October 2021.

The company plans to issue 4 billion new shares at a price of 1 Swedish crown each, a 96% discount to Thursday’s closing price of 23.68 crowns on the Stockholm bourse.

New shares worth 3.1 billion crowns will be sold to specific investors via a directed issue and the remaining 0.9 billion crowns will come from a rights issue, the company added.

The plan was backed by key shareholders including Vivendi’s Canal+ and Czech-based conglomerate PPF, while funds managed by Nordea Asset Management planned to take part in the share issue and keep their joint stake of 7.7%, Viaplay said.

The plan, which will be voted on by shareholders, also requires the support and approval of creditors and bondholders.

Viaplay’s Chief Financial Officer Enrique Patrickson told analysts on a call the company was in discussions with certain larger holders of three outstanding bonds.

Broker Jefferies said it judged as “low” the risk that Viaplay’s recapitalisation would fail, as the alternative to the board’s plan was likely to start insolvency proceedings.

Viaplay also reported an operating loss for the third quarter of 538 million crowns, taking its nine-month loss to 7.4 billion crowns.

The company in July announced layoffs and said it would focus on its core Nordic, Dutch and Viaplay Select operations, while downsizing, partnering, or leaving other markets.

On Thursday the company said it had sold a British business.

The Baltic and Polish operations will be run until summer 2025, and then will be closed down, Patrickson said on a conference call.

($1 = 10.4714 Swedish crowns)

(Reporting by Marta Frąckowiak, Terje Solsvik and Supantha Mukherjee; Editing by Jacqueline Wong, Miral Fahmy, Tomasz Janowski and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)