Telefónica mulls fire sale, including O2 UK and Telxius

Debt-laden Telefónica has confirmed it is considering selling off parts of O2 UK as it seeks ways of balancing the books. Separately, it has also announced the IPO of infrastructure subsidiary Telxius will be going ahead.

In a statement, here in Spanish, Telefónica said it is assessing options for its UK assets, being O2, in light of recent media speculation. While a possible initial public offering is being considered, any sale of O2 UK shares will still see the Spanish operator maintain its majority stake in its UK entity. understands Telefónica has been actively exploring alternative options for reducing its well-publicised debt, which is thought to be in excess of €50 billion ($56 billion). While a total sale of O2 in the UK is off the table for now, today’s announcement does corroborate assumptions of debt-management being the top concern right now.

While floating O2 UK is being heavily considered, Telefónica is pressing ahead with an IPO for its infrastructure company Telxius. Telxius manages cable, network and radio tower assets for Telefónica and its wholesale customers, and recently teamed up with Facebook and Microsoft to lay the world’s highest-capacity Atlantic subsea cable infrastructure.

In another statement released by Telefónica, it confirmed that, like with O2, it will remain as a majority shareholder of the company immediately after the offering. It will go to market with at least the minimum 25% of shares being made available, and will be listed on the Barcelona, Bilbao, Madrid and Valencia stock exchanges.

Telefónica had hoped the sale of O2 UK to Hutchison would take a sizeable chunk out of its debt levels, and some estimates have put a potential value of Telxius share sales at about €3.5 billion. Had the sale of O2 UK gone through, roughly a quarter of Telefónica’s total debt could have been successfully wiped off – although the specific value of the transaction would have varied wildly depending on exchange rates and the Brexit factor.

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