Altice could flog Dominican Republic business to address debt pile

French telecoms group Altice is planning to sell its business in the Dominican Republic to show it’s serious about whittling down its debt pile, according to a report.

The scoop was grabbed by the FT, which reports that the process of selling Altice Dominican Republic is in an early phase, and so might not happen. Reuters also has sources close to the plans and it reports that Altice is hoping to get around €3 billion from the sale of a business it paid €1.1 billion for in 2013.

Altice has accumulated €50 billion of debt in acquiring companies like SFR in France as well as a US spending spree. Its share price has gone down the toilet this year as weaker than expected earnings catalysed negative speculation about Altice’s ability to manage its debt pile. All this has already cost the Altice CEO his job and forced the company to make a special announcement designed to calm market nerves at the start of this week.

The share price received a small boost when the FT story about the Dominican Republic sale broke, but those gains have since been lost. A likely reason for this will have been the decision by credit rating agency Standard and Poor’s to downgrade its outlook for the Altice USA due to the weakness of its parent. Here’s the stated rationale.

The outlook revision follows the downward revision by management of its EBITDA growth expectation for 2017 to about 6% organically at group level from high-single digits, primarily due to weaker-than-expected operations in France–where the group generates about 40% of its consolidated EBITDA–which reportedly stem from management and operational setbacks. Coupled with a continued very competitive environment and our view that the group’s differentiation strategy with content and network investments has not proved its effectiveness yet, we have lowered our expectations for EBITDA growth in France to -2.5% on average for 2016-2018 from more than +3%. In addition, the outlook revision also reflects the recent collapse in the group’s market capitalization and deterioration in credit market confidence, which, if not restored through a credible debt-reduction plan and operational turnaround in

France, could result in higher funding costs in the medium term.

The report goes on to say the company’s debt rating could be downgraded if Altice fails to improve its French operations and/or the debt pile isn’t addressed. Conversely the outlook could be revised back to ‘stable’ as and when Altice starts turning things around.

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