November 19, 2017 / 11:01 AM / a year ago

French finance minister rejects 'doom-mongering' over Altice debt

PARIS, Nov 19 (Reuters) - French Finance Minister Bruno Le Maire on Sunday rejected “doom-mongering” over the debt level of telecoms and cable group Altice, but said he would closely monitor any risks to employment.

Shares of the Amsterdam-based holding company have fallen more than 40 percent since it reported disappointing third-quarter results on Nov. 2, and its president Patrick Drahi has said he is shifting focus from acquisitions to reducing Altice’s 50 billion euro ($59 billion) net debt.

“We should not yield to the current doom-mongering about his debt model, but I will be vigilant about the employment issue as there are more than 10,000 jobs on the line,” Le Maire said on CNEWS television.

He added it was “a good thing” Drahi would focus on industrial strategy rather than new acquisitions that would increase Altice’s debt.

“The maturity of Altice’s debt is six years, so he has time,” Le Maire said.

Altice has grown massively in both the United States and Europe through debt-fuelled acquisitions, which have raised the weight of its net debt to more than five times annual core operating profit.

Altice shares are down 63 percent over the past six months. (Reporting by Geert De Clercq; Editing by Mark Potter)

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