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CWC not selling TSTT stake

Monday, September 24, 2012

Cable & Wireless Communications (CWC), the UK-based company that owns 49 per cent of TSTT and many telecom assets throughout the region, is not likely to be interested in disposing of any of its Caribbean companies, according to a TSTT source, who requested anonymity because of their sensitive position.


Last week, there were international reports that Bahrain Telecom (Batelco) was in talks with CWC to acquire the English company’s assets in Monaco, Macau and a host of island nations, a deal potentially worth around US$1 billion. The international reports come as CWC faces strong demands in The Bahamas to cede majority ownership of the telecommunications monopoly there by reducing its 51 per cent stake to 49 per cent and the English company’s preference to acquire majority control of TSTT.


The TSTT source said that after some discrete enquiries, they were able to determine that neither TSTT nor the Bahamian company would form part of the ongoing discussions between CWC and Batelco. Reuters last week reported that three banking and industry sources told it that Batelco was circling the Monaco & Islands portfolio of CWC, the British telecoms group operating in the Caribbean and formed through a demerger of Cable & Wireless in 2010.


Talks between both the parties are ongoing and a deal is not imminent, the sources said on Monday, speaking on condition of anonymity as the matter is not public. Batelco and CWC confirmed the talks in separate statements, saying there was no guarantee a deal would be reached.


BNP Paribas and Citigroup are advising Batelco on the transaction, while JP Morgan Chase is advising the seller, two of the banking sources said. Citi is leading financing efforts for the transaction, according to one banker. “Batelco has been keen to do a deal for a while now to address falling home revenue. A potential deal to buy CWC assets should give them presence in markets they are not in currently,” one of the Reuters sources said.


Monaco & Islands operates in 12 markets, including the Maldives, Seychelles and Falkland Islands, and offers fixed-line, mobile, broadband and television services. Its brands include Monaco Telecom, Dhiraagu in the Maldives, and Sure in Britain’s Channel Islands and Isle of Man. Monaco Telecom also holds a 36.8 per cent stake in Roshan, a mobile phone operator in Afghanistan.


The CWC unit generated $586 million revenue in the group’s 2011/12 year when it had earnings before interest, dividend, tax and amortisation of US$186 million, according to its Web site. Monaco & Islands had 543,000 mobile subscribers as of end-March and 125,000 fixed-line subscribers. Batelco aims to make at least one acquisition in 2012 to offset falling domestic revenue, its chief executive told Reuters in April.


It had cash and bank balances of $286 million, according to its 2011 annual report, and could leverage its balance sheet to $1 billion or more for acquisitions, the CEO said. Batelco owns Jordanian telecoms operator Umniah. It holds 27 per cent of Yemeni mobile operator Sabafon, minority stakes in internet providers in Kuwait and Saudi Arabia and is also active in Egypt.


CWC, which had to cope with a faster-than-expected shift from voice services data, halved its dividend in May and said it was not seeing consistent recovery in the Caribbean. Its shares have risen 30 per cent in the past three months, narrowing year-to-date losses to 4.3 per cent. On July 3, European Union regulators cleared British mobile provider Vodafone’s £1 billion pound acquisition of fixed-line network operator Cable & Wireless Worldwide.


Cable & Wireless Worldwide, which split from CWC two years ago, provides voice, data and hosting services.


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