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Cell C plans to raise R8.5bn to reduce debt load

The struggling telecommunications company sets its turnaround plan in motion.

Cell C is in the process of raising $600 million (R8.5 billion) to prop up its balance sheet, given its crippling debt load of R23.6 billion.

The company’s management is currently on a roadshow in London to drum up support among investors, as the efforts to restructure South Africa’s third-largest mobile operator continue.

The company has proposed a $600 million raise through the issue of senior secured bond notes that are due in 2021.  

Its capital efforts follow the announcement early this month that prepaid technology specialist Blue Label Telecoms will buy a 45% stake in Cell C, a transaction valued at R5.5 billion.

This was a step up from the initial proposed recapitalisation — which was a R4 billion capital injection in exchange for a 35% stake in Cell C,  announced in December. 

Cell C’s recapitalisation programme will result in a shareholding structure change – with management and staff of Cell C expected to subscribe for 25% of the issued capital and 3C Telecommunications subscribing for new equity to hold the remaining 30% of the total issued share capital.

The recapitalisation is expected to be finalised mid-November 2016. 

On Monday, ratings agency Moody’s placed Cell C’s B3 rating under review and is looking to assign a B2 rating on its proposed notes to raise capital. A B3 rating is typically regarded as non-investment grade.

Any upgrade of its rating hinges on the successful implementation of its recapitalisation, which will see a R16 billion equity injection from new and existing shareholders and the R8.5 billion raise, which is expected to reduce Cell C’s debt to R8.5 billion from R23.6 billion.

Says Moody’s vice president and senior analyst Dion Bate in a statement: “Our review for upgrade reflects the expected reduction in Cell C’s gross debt obligations to around R8.5 billion and improved leverage and interest coverage metrics as a result of approximately R16 billion of equity injections but also recognises that there are still a number of conditions that need to be satisfied.”

Cell C has struggled to keep up with its rivals Vodacom and MTN over the past five years, given their increasing dominance in a competitive telecommunications market with more revenue potential in data than voice. 

To claw back market share, Cell C has embarked on aggressive cost-cutting initiatives and focused on improving its network quality and customer service offering.

Cell C hadn’t responded to Moneyweb’s request for comment by the time of publishing.

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So borrow money to pay off debt? And how do you repay that new debt considering that your business model got you into debt in the first place?

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