Spain’s Telefonica said on Wednesday it expected to list its German mobile phone business 02 in the fourth quarter and promised potential investors 500 million euros ($647 million) in cash dividends next year.
The flotation is part of Telefonica’s efforts to cut its huge debts to keep its prized investment grade credit rating, under threat from the troubles of its native Spain.
The Spanish company must raise 7-8 billion euros a year through 2015 to cover debt repayments and risks rising refinancing costs if Spain loses its investment grade rating.
On Tuesday, credit rating agency Standard & Poor’s said Telefonica had the weakest credit profile of Europe’s seven former telecom incumbents. The company did not say how much of O2 Germany it planned to float.
A financial source told Reuters the firm wanted to list between 10 and 20 per cent of the business, which it has valued at 10 billion euros. A person familiar with the process said Telefonica still planned to list it by end-October.
The listing will not significantly cut the company’s huge debts, but analysts say it will provide ready cash for Telefonica, which is hampered by high borrowing rates.
In Germany, Telefonica’s 02 brand is the smallest operator with roughly 16.4 per cent of subscribers, trailing KPN’s E-Plus, Deutsche Telekom and Vodafone.
But analysts say room for growth makes O2 Germany an attractive prospect for investors, plus the promised dividend payment, which Telefonica said will grow in the coming years.
“We are operating in one of Europe’s strongest economies and one of the biggest telecoms markets on the continent,” Rene Schuster, Chief Executive of Telefonica Germany said.
Parent company Telefonica cut its dividend payment in July for the first time since the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s to help cut its 57 billion euro debt pile. It also wants to sell off assets and list other parts of its business in Europe and abroad. O2 Germany’s net debt stood at 1.1 billion euros at end-September.
O2 Germany shares will trade in Frankfurt, Telefonica said. A 1.5 billion-euro IPO would be the biggest in Germany since engine maker Tognum raised 1.8 billion euros in 2007.