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Digicel to sell Pacific arm to pay debts

 

Jul 25, 2021 12:48:21 PM

Digicel to sell Pacific arm to pay debts Digicel is selling its Pacific arm so it could pay off its multi-billion-dollar debt to bondholders.

According to filings in New York, it has US$7.4 billion in outstanding debt, with revenues for the year ending March 2020 just $2.3 billion and operating profit only $479 million.

The company is largely owned by Denis O’Brien, the Irish businessman who made a fortune by building Ireland’s first competitive mobile operator, Esat Digifone, which he sold to BT.

Australia’s Minister for International Development Zed Seselja said he will not be able to provide any information on the amount of funding they are providing Telstra to buy Digicel.

“Well, obviously those kinds of discussions are pretty commercially sensitive so I just can't go into sort of amounts.  I really sort of can’t add much to it,” said Seselja.

“So, there's probably not much more I can say on that at this time. That's obviously going to be a matter for discussion and negotiation, which we don't tend to comment on publicly

“Again, I could not comment on where the Irish Times gets its information but obviously there are discussions on-going. We interest in strong telecommunications in the region.

“Telstra is a very well-respected Australian company which has great expertise and a lot to add but in terms of those types of numbers, I just can't go into sort of disclosing that,” he said.

He in a press conference said the government was working with Telstra to explore the feasibility of it acquiring Digicel Pacific.

“Australia has a very strong interest in supporting secure and resilient critical infrastructure in the country and the broader Indo-Pacific region,” he said.

“We are committed to actively support a reliable and competitive telecommunications market in the Pacific and quality infrastructure development in the region.

“Now, the government is not buying, Digicel Pacific with Telstra. I should make that clear but we are working with Telstra to explore the feasibility of Telstra acquiring Digicel Pacific.

“We're strongly supportive of the interest of Australian businesses, including Telstra, and exploring opportunities to invest in critical infrastructure in the Pacific,” he said.

Telstra said the government would finance the bulk of any bid for Digicel, the largest mobile phone carrier in the Pacific with operations in Papua New Guinea, Fiji, Samoa and Vanuatu.

"If Telstra were to proceed with a transaction it would be with financial and strategic risk management support from the government," the company said in a statement.

It last year denied an Australian newspaper report it was considering a sale of its Pacific business to state-owned China Mobile Limited.

A sale of Digicel to a Chinese company would be a cause of concern for the Australian government amid strategic competition between China in the Pacific region.

By Nacanieli Tuilevuka

 

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