May 15, 2020 / 10:15 AM / 16 days ago

Mobile carrier Digicel offers Pacific business as security in restructuring

SYDNEY (Reuters) - Jamaica-based telecommunications company Digicel Group DCEL.N has offered its Pacific business as security to creditors in a debt restructuring, a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing shows.

The SEC filings showed Digicel Pacific as a guarantor for $941 million in new secured notes maturing in 2024.

Digicel is one of the biggest mobile phone carriers in the Pacific Island region.

The Australian Financial Review had reported that China Mobile Ltd (0941.HK) was looking to buy Digicel’s mobile phone network in the Pacific in a deal worth as much as $900 million.

A sale to a Chinese state-owned firm would be of concern to the Australian government, which previously blocked Chinese telecommunications company Huawei Technologies Co Ltd [HWT.UL] from building a submarine cable linking Papua New Guinea to Australia.

Digicel’s Irish founder Denis O’Brien has obtained agreement from 75% of creditors to restructure the company, to stave off $4 billion in near to mid-term debt repayments, the SEC filing on May 14 showed.

Discussions began with creditors in early 2020 and KPMG was appointed provisional liquidators on April 29.

Digicel Pacific includes 2.5 million mobile phone subscribers across Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Vanuatu, Samoa, Nauru, and has a 65 percent market share in Papua New Guinea.

A new company, Digicel Group, 0.5 will issue the notes.

A China Mobile spokesperson said the report was untrue and the company “is not in touch with Digicel.”

A Digicel Group spokeswoman also told Reuters “no approach has been made to us”.

The deal under which Digicel Pacific becomes security for the restructured business will come into effect on June 15, if it is approved by a Bermuda Court on June 8.

The SEC filing showed Digicel had group revenue of $2.3 billion last year, but suffered a significant drop in voice revenue.

Reporting by Kirsty Needham; Additional reporting Pei Li; Editing by Jacqueline Wong

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